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Video Game Maker Linked To US Prisoner In Iran

BARBARA ORTUTAY

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the American sentenced to death by the Iranian government, is linked to a small New York company specializing in video games that recreate real-life conflicts in the Middle East and beyond.

The company, Kuma Games, makes a series of "Kuma(backslash)War" games that come in short, 10- to 15-minute episodes. The scenarios are usually nabbed from the news, and like documentary films, they seek to be as accurate as possible in chronicling real-life situations. Players can simulate events such as the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Afghan air strikes or the death of Moammar Gadhafi. There's also "Assault on Iran," about the country's nuclear ambitions.

"They are best known across academia, war hounds, people interested in war. Maybe soldiers or ex-soldiers," said Lindsay Grace, a professor who studies video games at Miami University in Ohio.

They are not "living-room games" like "Call of Duty", the popular shooter series by Activision Blizzard Inc., he said.

It's not the first time that video games have stirred up international barbs. Cuba denounced the 2010 version of "Call of Duty," in which U.S. special operations soldiers try to kill a young Fidel Castro. The country's state-run media said the game will turn American children into sociopaths. THQ Inc.'s "Homefront," meanwhile, had its cinematic opening scene changed in Japan, with references to North Korea's Kim Jong-Il and the country itself removed and replaced with "Northern Leader" and "A country to the North," respectively.

Iranian authorities accuse Hekmati of spying, but the U.S. â¿¿and Hekmati's familyâ¿¿ said the charges are false. This week, he became the first American sentenced to death in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

The 28-year-old Hekmati was linked to the gaming company in December, when the former U.S. Marine interpreter was shown giving a purported confession in a video that was broadcast nationally in Iran.

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