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Gaming and geopolitics collide in Iran

Blizzard Entertainment is tightening up its compliance with US sanctions on Iran in their online games.
Iran gaming sanctions 08 28 2012Enlarge
A Lebanese boy plays the computer game 'Special Force 2', inspired by last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah, in a southern suburb of Beirut 23 August 2007. The computer game puts players in the role of a Hezbollah fighter on the frontline of war with Israel, simulating raids into Israel to capture soldiers, battling tank movements in the valleys of south Lebanon and launching Katyusha rockets at Israeli towns. (Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

Iranian gamers will be forced to do without Blizzard games, including World of Warcraft, as the company begins to tighten up their compliance with US sanctions on Iran.

Several Iranian players found themselves unable to log into World of Warcraft and began posting on Blizzards official forums inquiring about the problems. Many of them stated that after last week’s server maintenance, they were having connection issues with the game. 

Players began speculating as to the issues while many blamed the Iranian government for the block. Later in the thread, a Blizzard employee made a post clarifying what was happening in Iran.

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“United States trade restrictions and economic sanction laws prohibit Blizzard from doing business with residents of certain nations, including Iran,” read the Blizzard employee’s post.

“This week, Blizzard tightened up its procedures to ensure compliance with these laws, and players connecting from the affected nations are restricted from access to Blizzard games and services,” the post went on to read.

Blizzard products are not legitimately available in Iran but gamers preparing for the release of a new World of Warcraft expansion were buying games through virtual private networks (VPN). 

The block was initially reported as an Iranian government restriction to massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 for “promoting superstition”. 

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Gaming and geopolitics collide more often than one may expect. In 2010, an island claimed by both North and South Korea was shelled by Pyongyang. Former South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae Young came under scrutiny for a delayed response to the attack. 

When asked why the South Korean response took 13 minutes, the minister replied, “This isn’t Starcraft.” 

He was later sacked over his mishandling of the situation. 

The Iranian government has also aided the development of certain games, including "The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict" a computer game in development by the Islamic Association of Students, a government-sponsored organization.

Whether or not the game will be a first person shooter or a real time strategy game, or something entirely different, is still unknown. However, if anything is to be gleaned from the title given to the game, players will more than likely implement Khomeini’s Verdict — a death sentence. 

Iran has also banned the distribution of several games, including Battlefield 3, for its depiction of a US military incursion into Tehran.

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