By Captain – TeamAsshat.com
Navid Khonsari is a Iran born game developer, who has done work on such well recieved games as the Grand Theft Auto series while working at Rockstar. A year ago, he started work his own project titled “1979: The Game“. 1979 depicts the events of the, aptly enough, 1979 Iranian revolution. His goal is to portray all the different perspectives in the game, from student to hostage.
“We’re primarily looking at about 8 to 10 different roles,” Khonsari told RT. “I’m using truths that exist in history, so the initial alliance of the U.S. with Saddam Hussein is one thing that we look in – maybe you come in through the border between Iran and Iraq; or maybe you use the U.S. alliance with the Taliban at that time.” He said in a interview.
He went on further and said that the game’s goal is to start a social dialogue, to replay history in a informative way. However, if you ask Iran, his goal was different.
“When word got out about the game, it got picked up by the conservative newspaper in Iran and I got written up as a spy,” Khonsari relates. “They’re basically saying that I’m making propaganda. So, as a result, I can’t go back to Iran now. It really sucks because I’ve got some family there, including elderly relations.”
“The main artist that worked on all of the main 1979 concept art—I work with only Iranians on that part because I want to be true to the material—he’s now fled the country as a result. We haven’t even released anything yet. But you’re guilty just as a result of your affiliation.”
This, however, did not hold back the game’s development. In fact,Khonsari seemed to have renewed resolve at last week’s “Games for Change” conference. He revealed more about the expeirence he’s trying to craft in 1979.
“The character’s parents are professors at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He attends school there and eventually winds up in foreign service circles and as part of Operation Eagle Claw [The operation for the U.S. Military to free hostages for the American Embasy that was take in the 1979 revolution]…”[The American military] actually took a number of Iranians with them so that they could be the guys driving the trucks when they were transporting the hostages to the helicopters. So the main character is one of those guys. He’s going there as a driver, as an interpreter and partially as a political strategist…He’s not picking up a gun and kicking ass. But he has been trained, though, so he can protect himself.”
This reveals gameplay will not be run-and-gun, and shows the characters main motivation lies in getting out of Iran.
Moving away from gameplay, and more towards the inspiration behind it all, Khonsari move into talking about videogames at large. “They’re weak content,” he states. “Audiences are sick of pseudo-worlds; they want real-world places and stories. The things I learned at Rockstar have not left me. I’m trying to carry those lessons on in slightly different ways. So, it’s about creating a level of detail and using it to drive the story and the gameplay.”
This shows in his future plans to make more games focused on political uprisings, working titles which include 1982 El Salvador, 1988 Panama, 1992 Liberia and 1995 Bosnia. “The idea is to get professional writers and journalists from those countries who are wanting to tell their stories. We’re a start-up developer. It’s not like we’ve got tons of dough. So we’re appealing to this storytelling urge. People will go to the umpteenth level to try to do that, so we want to give them a platform.”
This could be a direction that gaming at large- Documentary style games that immerse you in the content like no other media can. We hope 1979 can be the catalyst to this sort of gaming. Edu-gaming (which is to say, games with a focus on education) has a notorious way of ruining both the game and the education, but games like this could bypass this entirely if handled right. We wait to see some sort of gameplay from 1979 to alleviate our fears of this, but in the inspiration and thought process behind the project is certainly good enough to have us waiting for more.