Last week, a flurry of reports came in about the decision made by the Attorney General in Iran, Dr. Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, to ban Supercell’s Clash of Clans, after his office received the recommendation by the Committee for Determining Instances of Criminal Content. The content was determined by psychologists in the country to be a highly negative influence on the people of the Islamic Republic, particularly its youth.
The precedent is alarming to the gamer community in Iran who fear it’s just the beginning of a larger clampdown that will extend to include similar games, as well as other categories aside from mobile strategy. There have already been reports of players experiencing connection problems when playing Clash Royale, another enormously popular mobile title by Supercell in Iran.
Outraged by this verdict toward arguably one of the most popular mobile games in the country, the gamer community in Iran responded by rallying together with a concerted plea directed to the Instagram page of Mahmoud Vaezi, the minister of communications. If you’re wondering “why Instagram?” it so happens to be the most popular – and unblocked – social media site in the country.
Iran has an estimated 5.5 million Clash of Clans players in Iran, and they represent a significant portion of the 80 million living there — and they know it. Many of the complaints posed to Vaezi often struck a political chord as a means to appeal to the current administration and have them reject the plan to block the game.
“If Rouhani’s government can’t lift the ban for Clash of Clans, next year we won’t participate in the election!” is an example of the kind of comments that were made on major news websites like Khabar Online.
The campaign appears to have worked as Vaezi announced in an Instagram post that he would work to remedy the situation. This followed with a photo posted by Vaezi alongside President Rouhani affirming that he would follow through with his promise. Other authorities like the head of ESRA, the rating agency for software in Iran, followed suit in kind.
“It’s true that the Committee decided to filter Clash of Clans, but as I promised all of you, I had a talk today with President Rouhani and I hope soon that we can solve the problem.” Vaezi posted on his Instagram page.
It’s key to point out that while committees like this one make decisions like banning a game or website, the actual execution of the ban is made by the government.
An example was a decision made by the same committee to block Telegram four months ago, to which the government has yet to take action since the messenger app is enormously popular in Iran. To block it would entail disrupting not only the social sphere in the country but also businesses and the government, all of which have come to depend on it as a core mode of communication.
And in this case, Vaezi has taken the side of the gamer community by recognizing that the government will need to tread more carefully in order to keep that segment of the population engaged in a positive direction.
Iranian gamers have a reputation for getting feisty when their favorite titles are being meddled with or threatened. In the case of Travian, one of the first browser based games to be localized to the Iranian market, the German title was declared to be Zionist propaganda three years ago and swiftly banned.
Gamers quickly rallied to the offices of Travian’s local partner, as well as to authorities like ESRA, protesting the verdict but, unfortunately, the game’s fate was sealed.
Let’s hope that with President Rouhani’s support for Clash of Clans has a happier ending.
Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh is the cofounder at Virtuleap, a sandbox for creative developers to showcase their VR concepts to the world, which is currently running the world’s biggest WebVR Hackathon. He is also the European partner at Edoramedia, a games publisher and digital agency with its headquarters in Dubai.