1979 Revolution: Black Friday is a gut punch of a game, a tense re-telling of the events of a pivotal moment in the Iranian Revolution. It’s impossible to forget that the experience is based on events that are very real, and the game doesn’t hesitate to remind you of that fact. With the use of archival photos, audio recordings, and even home videos, 1979 Revolution feels intensely personal.
“You’re going to have to pick a side,” your character Reza Shirazi is told by a friend. “You might not want to, but you’ll have to.” Reza is a photographer, newly returned to Iran from abroad, who fully intends on staying neutral. But inevitably, he can’t help but be swept up by the tide, and soon he finds himself having to choose.
Perhaps because of the historical context of the game, it really feels as though there are no “good” choices in the game. There are only difficult ones. Do you choose to protest violently or peacefully? Do you cooperate or resist under interrogation? Do you choose your friends or your family?
Modeled off of games such as The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us by Telltale Games, 1979 Revolution utilizes quick time events where you have to react in real-time, as well as multiple dialogue options so that you can guide conversations. The danger feels real, as is the possibility of death.
One of the most interesting parts of the game is the found artifacts. When you snap a picture with your camera, the in-game photos are matched to photos taken during the actual revolution. You don’t just take pictures of propaganda and protestors, though; you also capture on film the symbols of everyday life, such as a corner bakery and a magazine stand plastered with celebrity faces. As you talk to people and examine your surroundings, you begin collecting little details about Iranian culture and history.
You also learn that revolution is messy. There are many factions and ideologies and foreign powers involved, and Reza even becomes embroiled in an assassination attempt on a figurehead of the underground movement. It’s not always clear what everyone’s motives and intentions are, or even what is truly right or wrong, if such a thing exists.
“I think our goal is, if I can put you in the shoes of someone else who’s experienced that [revolution], I think you’re gonna see the world is a lot more gray than black and white,” said Navid Khonsari in an interview with Engadget. Khonsari is the director of the game as well as the co-founder of iNK Studios, which developed it. In making the game, he drew on his background in documentary filmmaking as well as his childhood spent in Iran.
Though there are some futzy controls — for instance, you can’t adjust the camera angle manually, and you do run into the occasional invisible wall while navigating the environment — 1979 Revolution is a unique and visceral game. Bolstered by solid voice acting and a terrific soundtrack, the game does an excellent job communicating the urgency of the situation and making you feel as though you are there on the ground.