Updated: May 9
What's going on everyone?
Two years ago I had the pleasure of teaching about the Iranian Revolution using the graphic novel Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi. You can fine the student guide I made here. Having never really learned about this moment in history myself when I was in school, it was great to learn about it along with my students. Plus the graphic novel is simply amazing. Very rarely do you get to learn about the perspective of a little girl during a war.
I wish I had known about 1979 Revolution: Black Friday when I taught this unit two years ago. This game, developed by INK Stories, also tells a story of the Iranian Revolution through a rarely seen perspective. You play as Reza, a young man participating in the protests in Iran. Reza, however, is not a fighter. His weapon of choice is a camera and it's your job to document various events of the Iranian Revolution. You can find the lesson plan for 1979 Revolution: Black Friday here.
For my first two years of teaching I would teach conflict in a fairly stereotypical way. Set up some context, go over the major players, teach some major events/battles, and move on to repercussions. My students were learning perfectly well, but there was always this disconnect between the events we were learning and their own personal experiences. It can be hard to feel empathetic when the events transpiring don't really have a tangible effect on our lives. This is why I had decided to teach with Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood one year because it wasn't a war story about soldiers or battles. It was a story of a young girl trying to find her place in a war torn society. 1979 Revolution: Black Friday accomplishes something similar. Reza is not a soldier, and he constantly worries about his family and friends. There is a constant tug of war between supporting his friends in the protest and supporting his brother, a police officer on the opposite side of the conflict. Even among fellow protestors, he needs to choose between peaceful and violent forms of resistance.
One of the first choices you have in the game is whether or not to throw a rock at police officers. It's a heavy decision and you are only given a moment to decide. This is in stark contrast to other games based on war or conflict where you shoot people without any real consideration of what that means. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love playing some first person shooters every now and then, but they aren't known for their story telling. Those games are typically more about just having fun. 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is not fun. It's a game, but it has a clear intention of making these events in Iran feel real to the player. You can't just kill someone without second guessing yourself. Your decisions hold weight and they will affect the outcome of the story.
Gameplay is pretty simple and accessible. Most of the game is actually played through cutscenes where the job of the player is choose between dialogue choices. These choices often timed, forcing the player think quickly. Other times you walk- perhaps too slowly, around and take pictures of your surroundings. When not taking pictures you may be reading documents or listening to recordings. Very infrequently, there will be some quick time events where you need press a certain button at a precise moment.
One of the unique aspects of this game is that it blends fiction and non-fiction. The characters and story in the game are not real, but there are actual primary sources imbedded throughout the game. Whenever you take a picture in-game, you are provided with a real life image accompanied with a caption explaining what transpired. You gradually fill out a journal with photos, recordings of famous speeches, and other documents that you would find in any classroom or museum covering the Iranian Revolution. I love when developers incorporate resources like this into their games. Another great example is Valiant Heart's: The Great War which does something similar, but with World War I.
I'm not sure if I will be able to teach with 1979 Revolution: Black Friday this year since the Iranian Revolution is not a part of my curriculum, but hopefully someone here can try it out and get back to us about how it went. If not this year, definitely in the future. It would make a great addition to any world history class.
Thanks for reading,