A Palestinian computer engineer has put together a chilling game for smartphones, which shows the struggle of Gazan civilians to survive Israel’s 2014 onslaught from the sky. The game came out in May.
Rasheed Abueideh and a team of several other designers spent the last two years designing Liyla and The Shadows of War. A family of three, a father, a mother and Liyla, run through the burning rubble of Gaza. He wants to provoke an emotional reaction from players. At first, however, Apple thought the game was political commentary and not game. They changed their mind, however, and now it is available on the App store.
“What’s the purpose of the game?”
“To make people cry,” he replied. “It’s to show the facts in the war and the effect of war on the civilians and on children.”
Abuiedeh, a 32-year-old Palestinian living in the West Bank, has designed some games before, but this is the first game of its kind related to Gaza.
The short game starts out with the player controlling a male character, who must jump deftly and run fast to avoid immediate death by bullet or drone or bomb. (Spoilers ahead).
The man’s first goal is to reach his house, where he finds his wife and their daughter, Liyla. The house is destroyed by a missile strike, and the three run off. The mother dies. The father tells Liyla that she is just sleeping. They continue on to the shore, where the game presents moral choices that end in Liyla’s death. Her soul, along with her mother and dozens of others, rise up from the ground as glowing blue figures.
Abuiedeh was not surprised that the App store tried to censor his game. He says it’s expected given the amount of misinformation the media produces about Palestine that ignores the colonial reality of conflict and occupation..
“They should be talking about the root causes of the conflict,” he said. “They [Israelis] came to our land and took it by the power of guns and support from the governments of the western world.”
I asked: “Do you think there should be one state or two,” I asked.
“Don’t get me into that. :)” he replied.
I really don’t like video games, but playing Abuiedeh’s game was memorable. The simple video game helps raise awareness of Palestinian suffering in an innovative way.
In its own way, the game presents an enviable fantasy for Gazans. Bullets and bombs destroy the player, but another life is just a click away. In the real world, there aren’t so many chances.