Apple, which last week rejected a mobile game called Liyla and The Shadows of War for its political message, has decided to approve it. The monochrome platformer, which tells the story of a young Palestinian girl living in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict with Israel, was kicked back during Apple’s app review process because it contained content that “is not appropriate in the Games category.” The company has a storied history of censoring mobile games that touch on politically or culturally charged subjects, including games highlighting Chinese factory conditions and violence against children.
Palestinian developer Rasheed Abueideh, the creator of Liyla, posted a screenshot of text he received from Apple outlining why the company rejected his game. “Please revise the app category for your app and remove it from Games, since we found that your app is not appropriate in the Games category,” the message says. “It would be more appropriate to categorize your app in News or Reference for example.”
So not only was Apple unwilling to permit a developer’s message related to a controversial topic, but it also went so far as to say it should not be considered a game at all. In fact, the company’s App Store guidelines specifically outline its murky stance on what is and is not allowed in its mobile marketplace. “We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate,” the guidelines read. “If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical App. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store.”
Just happening: Apple reconsider its decision, they will publish Liyla as a Game.
Thanks to all of you.
— Rasheed Abueideh (@RasheedAbueideh) May 22, 2016
This stance has gotten Apple in trouble before, and yet the company has remained steadfast in many of its rejections. This time, however, it seems the backlash from Liyla fans and supporters of the story Abueideh is trying to tell put Apple in a tougher position. Helping Abueideh’s cause were numerous award nominations at gaming conferences, making it clear that Liyla was a game that just happened to contain narrative elements not everyone may agree with. The app is now available for free on both iOS and Android.
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