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Iran Sets Up ESRA Game Ratings, ESRB Denies Link

Iran Sets Up ESRA Game Ratings, ESRB Denies Link

December 30, 2008 | By Eric Caoili

December 30, 2008 | By Eric Caoili
More: Console/PC

Tehran-based National Foundation for Computer Games (NFCG), a non-profit group working under the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance's supervision, has announced that it has instituted an 'ESRA' ratings model for Iran with full government support, with Iranian media reports claiming the country would be "joining the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)".

"This plan will help families get better ideas about selecting games for their children and can set a good example for cinematic and television productions," said NFCG's managing director Behruz Minaii, according to a report from Iranian English-language newspaper Tehran Times. "It also helps support our domestic producers and gives better assistance to the distributors."

Minaii said that the group enlisted 20 experts from different religious, psychological, social, and media organizations in the past year for this initiative. The managing director also claimed that the first part of the group's unspecified plan is now ready, and the next parts will be completed through establishing this partnership.

The North America-based ESRB, however, denies that it is working with NFCG or any other organization. "We have not had any discussions with Iran about adopting our rating system," ESRB's assistant director of communications Eliot Mizrachi told game weblog Kotaku.

Further complicating matters, NCFG held a ceremony celebrating its ratings introduction and honoring the experts heading the project, according to the Tehran Times. The function was attended by game producers and officials from the country's ministries of culture and education.

Iranian deputy culture minister for Cinematic Affairs, Mohammadreza Jafari-Jelveh, said in the event's opening speech, "If we think a bit, we will find out that the major goal of computer games is to create heroes. And we can revive the culture of Persian championship with all its Iranian and Islamic elements through national computer games."

A troupe of actors gave a performance incorporating ratings symbols, but photos from the ceremony reveal that the letters used actually spelled out ESRA, leading to speculation that Iran and NFCG have formed a different group with a name and charter mimicking the ESRB's.

Established in 2007, the NFCG is designed to help promote "cultural principles and Islamic-Iranian identity" through the video game industry, and to support local video game companies. In October of this year, the group held an exhibit at a week-long police expo inviting families to learn about selecting appropriate and safe games for their children.

Iran's locally supported PC games include Save the Port, a real-time strategy title from the Multimedia Office in Tebyan; and Rescue the Nuke Scientist, a first-person shooter produced by the Union of Students Islamic Association. The latter has players recovering scientists captured by the U.S. military and held in Iraq and Israel.

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