Telegram-based web3 game Hamster Kombat draws Irani general’s ire amid rising local player base

Iranian government officials and hardliners express strong opposition to the play-to-earn blockchain game ‘Hamster Kombat’, claiming it serves as an instrument of Western soft power aimed at distracting the population from the upcoming presidential elections, local media reported on June 24. .

The criticism of the Web3 game comes after millions of Iranians have used the game as a way to make money amid a deteriorating economy facing hyperinflation.

Hamster Kombat, accessible via the popular but limited Telegram app, functions as an idle clicker game in which users perform repetitive tasks to earn points in the hopes of obtaining a crypto that is not yet publicly traded. Several websites have promoted the game as a way to ‘tap to earn’.

Despite denials from alleged developers about offering cryptocurrency, the game’s format and promises have captivated many. Hamster Kombat’s growing popularity mirrors the rise of Axie Infinity in the previous bull run, which at its peak allowed players to earn as much as $1,300 in a month – a significant amount of money for people in many emerging and developing economies.

Amir Rashidi, director of digital rights and security at Miaan Group, told AP News that this phenomenon is a sign of desperation. He explained:

“It’s about trying to hold on to everything that you hope might one day become something valuable.”

The rise of the game in Iran comes at a sensitive time for the political landscape, which is on the eve of national elections. State officials blame the game for the public’s lack of enthusiasm about the election and have expressed major concerns about its growing popularity.

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‘Soft war’

Deputy head of Iran’s military, Habibollah Sayyari, criticized the game and suggested it is part of a broader strategy to divert attention from important national events. He said:

“One of the hallmarks of the enemy’s soft war is the ‘Hamster’ game.”

He suggested that the game is intended to distract public attention from the presidential candidates’ plans and encourage a culture of laziness.

Meanwhile, a separate state-sponsored newspaper, the JameJam daily, echoed the government’s sentiments, warning that the game’s appeal reflects a dangerous trend of seeking wealth without effort.

“A society that, instead of working and trying to succeed and make money, turns to such games and looks for shortcuts and windfalls, gradually loses the culture of effort and entrepreneurship.”

The controversy has also led to religious criticism. Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, a prominent Shia scholar, declared cryptocurrencies “the source of much abuse” and urged people to avoid games like “Hamster Kombat” that involve Bitcoin.

Outside of Iran, the app has also raised concerns in other regions. Ukrainian authorities, wary of data security amid the ongoing conflict with Russia, warned that user information stored in Russia could pose risks. The broader problem of malware exposure also looms, as many Iranians turn to unofficial software due to sanctions limiting access to legitimate app stores.

Economic misery

The economic backdrop in Iran has only fueled the game’s popularity. With Western sanctions, high inflation and a lack of jobs, many Iranians are looking for alternative ways to secure their financial future.

The country’s local currency has plummeted in value and daily costs have skyrocketed, making traditional savings methods less viable. As of June, one dollar is worth 580,000 Iranian rials. This economic desperation has led to a surge of interest in cryptocurrencies for the population and central bank digital currency (CBDC) for the government.

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Despite the criticism and risks, the game remains a symbol of hope for many struggling with economic hardship. As Iran’s presidential candidates continue to campaign on platforms like Telegram and other social media platforms – despite previous bans – “Hamster Kombat” illustrates the lengths people will go to find financial stability in uncertain times.

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