Homesick for Iran, a student explores Persian carpet rolling puzzles in Farsh

"To my mother, who spent her youth weaving carpets," reads the title screen for Mahdi Bahrami's Farsh, a puzzle game inspired by Persian rugs.

A clever, soothing tile-based puzzle game, Farsh was also a remedy for its creator. Homesick for his native Iran, the game's 20-year-old designer found solace by losing himself in development of the Independent Games Festival-nominated game.

"When I came to the Netherlands six months ago, for the first time in my life I was living alone, far from my family in Iran," Bahrami says. "The only thing that helped me to not become homesick was focusing on making Farsh. I was so involved in making the game that I completely forgot about the changes that had happened to my life."

"I had the idea of making a game based on the characteristics of a carpet since I was in Iran," Bahrami says, "and when I came here I had free time to make it."

Mahdi Bahrami is a game designer and student at the NHTV University of Applied Sciences in Breda, Netherlands.

He says he created the original version of Farsh in about two weeks. After watching YouTube videos of people playing his game, he returned to Farsh to fix "some of my mistakes" for an updated release. In total, about six weeks of hard work went into developing the final game, he says.

Farsh gives players control of a carpet, which can roll up and unroll, laying itself over tiles that can be rotated to solve a series of puzzles. Its mechanics are simple, but its three-dimensional puzzles are challenging. A soundtrack by Iranian musician Moslem Rasouli adds a sense of calm as players twist and turn patterned tiles in a serene, pale blue space.

"I like designing new game mechanics and games which are based on Persian culture," Bahrami explained, "but I have some problems for distributing my games just because of my nationality."

Farsh was announced as one of eight finalists in the 2013 Independent Games Festival Student Showcase. But Bahrami won't be able to attend this year's IGF competition at the Game Developers Conference in person. He says his visa application to visit the United States was recently rejected, preventing him from attending GDC this year.

"It seems there is nothing possible to do to solve this problem," Bahrami says. "I'm missing opportunities by not attending GDC but the only thing I can do now is continue what I'm doing and not being disappointed."

Bahrami is currently enrolled in a four-year program at NHTV University studying program.

"I'm going to continue working on games inspired by Persian culture and I won't stop trying," he says. "I started making games because I was good in programming and I had some new ideas for video games.

"At the moment I have enough skills to make a playable prototype of any game idea in few days and I think this is really helpful for a game designer."

Farsh for Windows PC and Mac is free to download and play from Bahrami's website. His other games, including Bo (an IGF 2011 honorable mention for Excellence in Design) and Everything Can Draw! (presented at Tokyo Game Show 2010's Sense of Wonder Night), are also free to download.

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