Pokémon GO is the latest gaming phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. While fans of Pokémon GO in most countries are walking more than ever to “Catch ’em all,” players from Iran have been banned from playing the game. Looks like these harmless virtual pocket monsters are not welcome in the Iranian regime.
This ban officially makes Iran the first country to deny Pokémon GO fans the right to play the game. The country’s Internet Supervisory and Monitoring of Iran — also known as the High Council of Virtual Space — is the regulatory body that supervises online activity. Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, the General Secretary of the High Council of Virtual Space, mentioned on Iranian television channel Tasnim News Agency — which is incidentally operated by the state itself — that the game is banned in the country after a unanimous decision by the council.
After raising national security concerns, Khoramabadi said, “It might also endanger the security and safety of citizens.”
Interestingly, another regulatory body, the Iranian National Institute of Computer Games, had approved the game. However, Khoramabadi disregarded their approval and claimed that it was not based on a thorough investigation of the game.
Speculating on why Iran has banned Pokémon GO, David Murphy writes in his article for PCMag, “Pokémon GO can encourage players to get creative with their sleuthing at all hours of the night, which can prove troublesome. Trespassing concerns are prevalent, too—so much so, there’s even a class-action lawsuit in the works in the United States centered on that very issue. It’s also possible that Iran wants to stop the ‘Pokemon effect’ of tens (if not hundreds) of people all hanging out in the same area for hours at a time, or even the few cases where Pokémon GO players are robbed or assaulted when walking around Pokestops in particular areas.”
Despite the ban, Pokémon GO is actually gaining popularity in the country. Fans of the game in Iran are actually finding alternative routes via online websites based outside the country.
Lida Ahmadi, a game developer in Tabriz, told Voice of America (VOA), “Obtaining the game through the Iranian Android market, known as Bazar, was impossible and the game was not accessible to Iranian users through Google Market. So users had to use the Virtual Private Network (VPN) in order to circumvent obstacles and download the game on their Android phones.”
Interestingly, analysts from Tehran told VOA that the game was actually banned in Iran thanks to the extra pressure of the country’s moral police outfit known as “Gashte Ershad.” In fact, VOA reports that “Gashte Ershad” has been arresting Pokémon GO players and deleting the game from their smartphones.
“It’s quite difficult to be in the streets and be focused on both hunting Pokemon and on the lookout for the Gashte Ershad. Don’t hunt me. Life has become hard,” a user posted on Twitter.
One of the oldest consumer technology magazines in Iran – Danestaniha – dedicated its front pages recently to Pokémon GO coverage.
Shedding light on how the game has become a sensation in Iran, Shahram Siahroudi, game developer and technology expert, told VOA, “Among some millennial Iranians, Pokémon GO has become a universal sensation and turned into an obsession with Iran. These days, some people spend hours and hours to increase their scores and I heard even some teenagers got into street brawls for hunting a character in their neighborhood.”
Notwithstanding the ban on the game, fans of Pokémon GO are bragging about their catches on Twitter, which is also banned in Iran incidentally. They have managed to find Pokémon inside buses in Tehran and a famous tourist site in Shiraz, Hafeziyeh.
[Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images]