Iranian video game hero Garshasp seeks fans abroad

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Arash Jafari is a rare bird at Gamescom, Europe's biggest video games fair. He is an Iranian creator hoping to make a splash with his Persian warrior Garshap at an event dominated by Americans, Japanese and Europeans.

With his checkered shirt, beard and pony tail, it was only his nationality that set Arash Jafari apart from other exhibitors at the industry show that ran from Thursday until Sunday in the German city of Cologne.

Jafari's story began on a college campus, at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran.

With a basketball teammate who had also studied in California, he founded a company that developed professional software.

Because of their love of video games, the pair invested profits from that company into creating Garshasp, an adaptation of the US video game Gods of War, that has a Persian warrior as its star.

In a dark, medieval universe that resembles many video games on the market, Garshasp must battle a series of bloody monsters and is armed with an array of bladed weapons.

The "game has to be fun" said Jafari, who acknowledged he had collaborated with Iranian rating's authorities to get the game launched.

"As with the music, there are red lines," he said.

His hero fights only monsters for example because it is forbidden to kill other human beings, even if they not real.

Another video game producer, Amir Salmazadeh, who sells educational content for very young players, skirted the Islamic veil issue by using only children or animals in his work.

In Iran, the ESRA commission works with psychologists and sociologists to rate video games according to their "conformity with the Iranian and Islamic cultures."

Its logos, which closely resemble those of US counterpart ESRB, authorise the most benign games for those at least three years old, and the most sensitive for those who are at least 25 years old and married.

"Porn and drugs are forbidden," as is alcohol, unless associated with an evil entity, said Behrouz Minaei, managing director of the Iran National Foundation of Computer Games.

"We are working for better quality in video games," he said.

Iran has 35 design studios, a fledgling industry of which the government sometimes has "a negative point of view," Minaei added.

"We are here to find investors. Our games, based on Iranian history, are unique," he added.

The Iranians are present for the second year at Gamescom, which bills itself as Europe's biggest trade fair for interactive games and entertainment, and have presented their work at a fair in Dubai.

Happy to be presenting his work in Europe, Jafari said he hoped "to show Westerners the true culture of Iran, not the distorted one they can see in the media."

Western children wanted to be exposed to different kinds of video games, he added.

In Cologne, he said he had made contacts with industry figures from Britain, Germany and Italy, but had not signed any contracts so far.

© 2010 AFP

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