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Digital Heroes: Video Games and Identity Construction in Iranian Video Games

April 8, 2013
12:00PM - 01:30PM

Annenberg School for Communication, Room 300
3620 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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Categories: Seminar

This lecture analyzes contemporary Iranian video games and explores the ways in which they communicate different concepts of identity. Video games are a form of mainstream media for Iranian youth, and have become a popular leisure time activity. These games provide them with various cultural symbols, myths, and rituals, which then become a constituent part of their identities.

At the same time, most games on the Iranian market are developed and produced in the United States and Europe. Unsurprisingly, the Iranian authorities are particularly concerned about the negative influence of such games on Iranian youth. Therefore, they established the National Institute of Computer Games in Tehran in 2006 in order to subsidize development of games in Iran, conceived in accordance with Iranian and Islamic values. Whereas the Iranian government perceives games as a new semiotic language of the youth and therefore utilizes them to promote Islamic values and foster national pride, many independent producers maneuver within and around state’s interests, presenting instead their own, oftentimes quite different concepts of identity.

Therefore contemporary Iranian games encompass a broad variety of topics, ranging from the Islamic revolution through popular soap operas to ancient Persian mythology. The resulting concepts of identity are achieved through sensitive negotiations between the demands, funding and restrictions of the Islamic state and the visions and engagement of private entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, despite varying ideological background, independent and state-funded producers both share a common belief: that they are misrepresented by global video game production and strive to present unique Iranian heroes to their audiences.

Vit Sisler, PhD., is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague. His research deals with the relation between Islam and digital media, normative frameworks in cyberspace, and the topic of educational and political video games. Vit Sisler was a visiting Fulbright scholar at Northwestern University in 2008-2009.

He is also a managing editor of CyberOrient, a peer reviewed journal published by the American Anthropological Association and Charles University in Prague. An excerpt from his upcoming chapter, Digital Heroes: Video Games and Identity Construction in Iranian Video Games, can be found here.