Palestinian software developer Rasheed Abu-Eideh has been working on the game for more than 10 years.
Now, his work is being used as the focus of a new charity package available on the independent itch.io platform, raising money to help people trapped in Palestine’s ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Developed by Abu-Eideh alone in two years, Liyla and the Shadows of War tells the story of a young Palestinian girl and her family who lived in Gaza during the 2014 war, a roughly 15-minute play reminiscent of the real events of the seven-week conflict.
Many scenes depicted the latest incidents of last month’s Gaza bombings, where Israeli bombings killed more than 250 Palestinians, including 66 children, as well as the destruction of homes, schools and hospitals.
“Games are one of the best [kinds of] the media to show Palestinian stories, ”Abu-Eideh told Al Jazeera.
“You have great potential to reach millions of people. If they see what is happening on earth and interact with it, they will come to protect your case. We saw that happening with the Black Lives Matter, and we live the same thing with the Palestinian cause.
“We don’t just need to raise money for Palestine,” he said. “We need to raise awareness. We need people to understand what happens every day. It’s a way to deal with this occupation. It’s not a fun thing to do. It’s something I have to do. “
Angry at the oppression of pro-Palestinian voices in the mainstream media at the time, Abu-Eideh decided to find a way to express the frustrations and grievances of his countrymen to a wider and more global audience.
“I tried to recapture the feelings that Palestinians have and what they experience throughout their lives,” Abu-Eideh said.
“Through Liyl, I tried to put the players in that experience. It seems that your decisions don’t matter. Whatever decision you make, it won’t change anything because you live in occupation and attack.
“I was also thinking about families and kids,” he said. “If I lost one of my children in such an attack, how would I react? How does it feel? I wanted people to understand how hard it is to be in a situation like this. I couldn’t ignore the feeling of not being able to do anything. “
When it was released in 2016, Apple’s App Store initially ruled out the game because of its political commentary.
As a result of social media gained as a result of the broad gaming community, knowledge about Abu-Eideh and his project was fostered, generating unexpected support and critical praise.
“Websites and journalists were talking about the game and it became more popular,” Abu-Eideh said.
“It was a breakthrough, I think. I was nominated for many awards and participated in many events around the world. It was moving, in a weird way. ”
Initially there were about two dozen games, support for the series was quickly assembled. Within days, hundreds of creators and tens of thousands of supporters had gathered behind the word when the word spread.
“This is horrible,” Abu-Eideh said. “This shows how much the view is changing about the Palestinian history.”
In addition to Liyla and Shadows of War, donors will be able to access hundreds of games, assets and soundtracks, all provided free of charge by other game developers and media creators around the world.
The series was created by Alanna Linayre, founder and CEO of Toadhouse Games, an indie game studio based in New York City that specializes in creating games that aim to destigmatize mental illness and promote self-care.
As a person experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), his enthusiasm for action was rekindled after watching videos taken by Palestinians in recent attacks in Gaza.
“I could see a lot of the same symptoms that I cause in young children,” Linay told Al Jazeera.
“I thought a bunch of games would be a good idea to help in a small way. I didn’t expect him to have the reach he eventually had, but I’m very grateful that he grew up beyond his original intentions.
“Often, the interview to help others does not involve those who receive help,” he said.
“It was brave and wonderful for Rasheed to be able to highlight his game. Interactive communications are based on active involvement.”
At the time of writing, the campaign What You Want to Pay has raised more than $ 650,000, exceeding the initial funding goal of $ 500,000.
Proceeds will go to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which will provide food aid and protection to Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.
“I want to thank everyone,” Abu-Eideh said. “That number is crazy. Even if a person didn’t have enough money to make contributions, just shared or tweeted or published about it, or just liked a post about it, I want to thank everyone. ”