You can’t show your legs or enjoy a frosty beer in Iran, and now, much to the chagrin of gamers, World of Warcraft has been banned. With 9.1 million subscribers (blizzard), Wow is the most popular Massively multiplayer online-role-playing game (MMORPG) on the planet. Since the civil war in 1979, Iranians have endured unmeasurable strife under the current regime, and the WoW ban is yet another drop in the censorship bucket they call life.
WoW is a virtual melting pot where fantasy meets feudalism, allowing players to live vicariously through elves, orcs and other enchanted creatures. The mythical land of Azeroth was introduced to the world in “Warcraft: Orcs & Humans” in ’94, and has since grown into worldwide addiction, allowing players to build guilds and conquer quests together. Although Blizzard, the company that owns WoW doesn’t release data broken down by country or region, PR Director Rob Hilburger asserts that only a small fraction of WoW’s players were based in Iran.
[box_dark]Blizzard Causes a Storm[/box_dark]
The bulk of WoW players may not have lived in Iran, but many believe the numbers are irrelevant to the message. After the WoW blackout, Iranian players saturated message boards with quandary and annoyance, only to be issued a formal statement citing U.S. law:
“United States trade restrictions and economic sanction laws prohibit Blizzard from doing business with residents of certain nations, including Iran,” the company said in an email sent to players last week and forwarded to The Associated Press late Tuesday. “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.”
In the sudden wake of the shut down, little clarity was given as to why Blizzard had only recently blocked players in Iran. Speculation dictates that this could be an effect of the U.S. and its allies tightening the economic noose on Iran as it tries to extrapolate information about their alleged nuclear program. (Yahoo!) Tehran is adamant that the program is intended solely for civilian energy generation, however, skeptics fear an atomic arsenal could also be in the mix.
[box_dark]A History of Censorship[/box_dark]
Notorious hacktivist group Anonymous believes the block has more to do with the Iranian government than they are admitting to. Beginning in 2005, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad helped spearhead a campaign to purge the Iranian Internet of all anti-Muslim, anti-government information, and prevent dissidents from organizing and communicating about protests. Iran has banned everything from game reviews to social meet-up forums. According to the Times of Israel, Anonymous posted “The latest blockages could be the beginning of a long-promised plan by Iranian authorities to replace the general Internet with an Iranian “national Internet,” which would conform to Islamic principles.” An Iranian former WoW player identified as Siavash A. translated Persian text from a pamphlet outlining offensive content in the gaming world, proclaiming WoW fosters . . .
- Promotion of superstition and mythology
- Promotion of violence from too much violence
- Abolishing the deformation in sin.
- Demonstration of inappropriate clothing and slutty outfits for female avatars.
It’s unclear if the WoW ban will be permanent, as they aren’t explicitly illegal, nor are they sanctioned. One thing is certain, the ban only serves to strengthen Iran’s “guilds” of dissidents.
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After studying film at UCLA, Lauren found that her second love, writing, allowed her to be both critic and harbinger of information. She now freelances for a variety of entertainment publications and is a regular at her local theater.