Why did Apple U-turn on Palestinian indie game, and does its approval process need to change?

Liyla and the Shadows of War developer Rasheed Abueideh speaks out

Why did Apple U-turn on Palestinian indie game, and does its approval process need to change?

Apple's no stranger to controversy regarding its approval process for games on the App Store.

 And recently it's come under fire for rejecting a Palestinian indie game.

Rasheed Abueideh, developer of Liyla and the Shadows of War, was told that the game would be better placed in the News or Reference categories due to its setting amidst the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.

The game has since been approved for release, and sits in the App Store's games category as originally intended. However, it prompted yet more discussions about Apple and its treatment of political issues in games.

As such, reached out to Abueideh to get his take on the situation. Tell us a little about the themes that Liyla and The Shadows of War touches upon.

Rasheed Abueideh: Liyla is a game about our life in Palestine and how much we suffer to protect our families.

It’s not about politics; Liyla is an act of humanity.

It’s not about politics; Liyla is an act of humanity.
Rasheed Abueideh

How did you feel when you received the message from Apple that your game was "not appropriate in the Games category"?

Discriminated against, but to be honest I was not surprised - I was expecting that.

Have you heard from other developers who have faced such problems, and are there any techniques to get around it? Why do you think Apple reversed its decision?

Yes, I heard about other games, and the only technique that I know is going to the public.

Apple reversed its decision after the feedback from the amazing community about Liyla. If they did not help me, the Apple team would never have changed it by themselves.

Do you believe that games with a political message are important? Why do you think they deserve a place on the App Store?

Games, like any other media, can say anything. They also have the advantage to do that by allowing the player to experience the case in the game world.

Liyla and The Shadows of War is now available on the App Store's games section, but do you feel there's still a discussion to be had about Apple's approval process? What would you like to see changed?

They need to be more open about games that handle real life events.

Apple needs to be more open about games that handle real life events.
Rasheed Abueideh

Think of it like this: if a movie is talking about a true story, then - by Apple's standards - this movie should not be a movie. We should watch it as news!

But I think this standard is applied to some games like Liyla not to all games. 

I think the App Store needs a new category called 'Serious Games'.

What's the reaction been like from the community, and do you think drawing attention to your cause has made people take notice of the game and its message?

The reaction from the community of gamers and game developers all over the world has been amazing. This was really surprising to me, and I didn’t expect all of this support in sharing the game.

Liyla and the Shadows of War is available on Google Play and the App Store.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.