On how to make love with your game...

In the beginning, there was just love…

I saw my first and true love at my uncle’s house when I was just 5 years old. She was squared shaped and ugly! But I loved her. A love at first sight! I asked my uncle about her name and he said: “it’s Atari!” A few years later my uncle opened an arcade in our small city and it was always crowded with lovers who wanted to play a game called Atari Airplane! On that time, people were used to putting a name on every famous game. Later, I found out that the name of that Airplane game was River Raid and even nowadays lots of old gamers call the Super Mario, Mushroom Eater!

My parents weren’t able to buy new consoles so easily and I can still remember that I once prayed to God to give me a SEGA Genesis… But God never gave me a SEGA! So I was always using previous generation consoles or I would play in Arcades. I was badly into video games, so I picked up a notebook and started to draw my favorite game characters on every page of it. Later on, I drew storyboards based on games like Resident Evil and made animations by using the pages of textbooks from games such as Shadow Dancer.

When I was a teen, I joined some filmmaking schools and made some short films too, but the movies were in action or horror genre and weren’t suitable for film festivals! After a while, I came to the conclusion that turning my ideas into films would be an expensive work. So I went back to my first love: Video Games!

About 10 years ago, there weren’t any schools or college programs for learning game development in my country and with a dial-up internet connection, I gradually learned how to make a simple game by using Game Maker. Finally, when I was 22, and after spending 6 months sitting behind a computer and listening to complaints from my parents, I made my first game with the name “Dream Land”, a simple 2D game. I sent the game to some national Video Game Magazines and when I was not expecting, one of my favorite game critics called me and a few weeks later a full page article plus an interview with me was printed in their magazine! Suddenly, different newspapers and tv shows started to talk about my game and my parents felt that game development is not just a waste of time and that it can actually lead to success too!

After the popularity of Dream Land, I worked on a website with the name “Fanaei.com” and tried to teach game developing to the others through it. Then we would hold competitions with prizes and everything! Step by step, the website got bigger and we added a video reviewing section to it. Until I realized, after a few years, that I was going far away from my main goal. So I left the website and went back to game developing.

…In the meantime, unloved creatures were lurking in the dark…

Since I had done some research about Satanism, Freemasonry and secret societies, and I loved horror games such as Resident Evil, I decided to make my next game about this mysterious subject. An as an attempt for making it more puzzling, I gave it a weird name for it: 41148

After a few months of watching Unity 3D tutorials and working on my game for nearly 6 months, I published my game on a local android market with millions of users. The game went to the top lists quickly and even got featured on a national TV channel. But meanwhile, I was receiving lots of threatening comments from people saying my game was promoting Satanism. These words went viral very fast and in less than a few days, one of the most popular news shows of my country aired news report on my game being involved in the promotion of Satanism! After that, the national organization of video games announced that my game wasn’t certified by them.

Now, everything was against me. I was receiving lots of hate mail, and since I live in a religious country, there wasn’t a day I would spend without being scared of getting arrested for promoting Satanism! Finally, because of this mental pressure, I removed my game from every online store. But I was still flustered and I wouldn’t answer any phone calls from unknown callers.

Days and weeks had passed in this way and little by little, some users that understood the purpose of the game asked me to continue its development. Then, an online news source wrote a post about it and the national video game organization that had forbidden my game, confirmed it indirectly with a news post.

But in the end, love wins..

Everything became better and I started to make the second episode for 41148. This episode was shorter, but soon it became one of the best sellers.This time, nobody said anything against my game and a few months later, I made and published the third episode. This episode became a best seller too, and also the third game of the year. Finally, after a year, the last episode was released. It sold more than 6 thousand dollars just in the first days and became the best game of the year by popular votes. Now, the boy that once dreamed about having a SEGA console tried all the new-gen consoles and he’s trying to show his game to all the gamers in the world.

Hafez Shirazi says: The path of love seemed easy at first, what came was many hardships.

If you start developing video games for money and it fails, you will feel that you wasted your whole life. But if you make love with your game, even if nobody downloads it, you’re still a winner, because you enjoyed every moment of it.

Nowadays, I’m teaching Art in a junior high school in a small town, and I make video games on my free time. So maybe that’s the reason why making 41148 took almost 3 years! In our Art class, we also have a few weeks for learning the basics of game development and students love it. However, video game development is not in our main programs, but I like sharing my love.

So, is it love or money you work for?