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

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

Irani officials have raised concerns over a new web3 "tap-to-earn" game called Hamster Kombat that has gripped the local populace amid deteriorating economic conditions.

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

Cover art/illustration via CryptoSlate. Image includes combined content which may include AI-generated content.

Iranian government officials and hardliners are voicing strong opposition to the play-to-earn blockchain game “Hamster Kombat,” claiming it serves as a tool of Western soft power aimed at distracting the populace from the upcoming presidential elections, local media reported on June 24.

The criticism against the web3 game comes after millions of Iranis have turned to the game as a way to make money amid a deteriorating economy struggling with hyperinflation.

Hamster Kombat, accessed via the popular but restricted Telegram app, functions as an idle clicker game in which users perform repetitive tasks to earn points in the hope of obtaining a crypto that is not yet publicly traded. Various websites have promoted the game as a way to “tap to earn.”

Despite denials from purported developers about offering crypto, the game’s format and promises have captivated many. The growing popularity of Hamster Kombat echoes the rise of Axie Infinity in the previous bull run, which, at its peak, enabled players to earn as much as $1300 in a month — a significant amount for people in many emerging and developing economies.

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

“It’s about trying to hang on to anything you have a tiny hope that might some day turn to something valuable”

The rise of the game in Iran comes amid a sensitive time for the political landscape, which is on the cusp of national elections. State officials blame the game for the populace’s lack of enthusiasm about the elections and have raised significant concerns over its growing popularity.

‘Soft war’

Deputy Chief of the Iranian Military, Habibollah Sayyari, criticized the game, suggesting it is part of a broader strategy to divert attention from significant national events. He said:

“One of the features of the soft war by the enemy is the ‘Hamster’ game.”

He suggested the game is designed to divert public attention away from presidential candidates’ plans and encourage a culture of laziness.

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

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

The controversy has also attracted religious scrutiny. Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, a prominent Shiite scholar, declared cryptocurrencies “the source of many abuses” and urged people to avoid games like “Hamster Kombat” involving Bitcoin.

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

Economic woes

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 everyday costs have skyrocketed, making traditional saving methods less viable. As of June, a single dollar is worth 580,000 Irani rials. This economic desperation has led to a surge in interest in cryptocurrencies for the populace and central bank digital currency (CBDC) for the government.

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

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