Palestinian software developer Rasheed Abu-Eideh has been working on games for more than 10 years.
Now, its work is being used as the centerpiece of a new charity package, available on the independent platform itch.io, raising money to support people trapped in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Palestine.
Developed solely by Abu-Eideh over two years, Liyla and the Shadows of War tells the story of a young Palestinian woman and her family living in Gaza during the 2014 war, recalling real-life events. which took place during the seven-week conflict is about 15 minutes of play.
Several scenes have depicted more recent events from last month’s attacks on Gaza, in which Israeli bombings killed more than 250 Palestinians, including 66 children, in addition to the destruction of homes, schools and hospitals.
“The games are one of the best.” [kinds of] media to show Palestinian stories, ”Abu-Eideh told Al Jazeera.
“You have huge potential to reach millions of people. If they see what’s happening on the ground, and interact with it, they’ll support your case. We’ve seen what happens with Black Lives Matter, and we’re experiencing 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 the way to resist this occupation. It’s not a fun thing to do. It’s something I have to do.”
Enraged by the suppression of pro-Palestinian voices in the traditional media of the era, Abu-Eideh was determined to find a way to express the frustrations and grievances of his countrymen to a wider and global audience.
“I am trying to translate the feelings that the Palestinians have and what they are going through in their lives,” Abu-Eideh said.
“Through Liyla, I tried to put the players in that experience. It seems like your decisions don’t matter. Whatever decision you make, it won’t change anything because you’re living under occupation and under attack.
“I was also thinking about families and children,” she said. “If I lost one of my children in such an attack, how would I react? How would you feel? I wanted people to understand how hard it is to be in such a situation. I couldn’t just ignore the feeling of doing nothing.” .
Since its original release in 2016, the game was initially rejected by Apple’s App Store because of its political commentary.
The return of social media resulting from the wider gaming community has raised awareness of Abu-Eideh and his project, generating an unexpected source of support and critical praise.
“Websites and journalists talked about the game and made it more popular,” Abu-Eideh said.
“I think it was a breakthrough. I have been nominated for several awards and have participated in many events around the world. It was shocking, in a weird way. ”
Initially featuring about two dozen games, the support for the beam is quickly assembled. Within days, hundreds of creators and tens of thousands of contributors gathered behind the campaign as word spread.
“This is huge,” Abu-Eideh said. “This shows how much the perspective changes on Palestinian history.”
In addition to Liyla and Shadows of War, donors will receive access to hundreds of games, goods and soundtracks, all donated free of charge by other game developers and media creators around the world.
The bundle was put together by Alanna Linayre, founder and creative director of Toadhouse Games, a New York-based indie game studio that specializes in creating games with the intent of destigmatizing mental illness and promoting self-care. .
As a person living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), she was inspired by the action after watching videos taken by Palestinians during the most recent Gaza attacks.
“I could see some of the same symptoms I experienced in children,” Linayre told Al Jazeera.
“I think a game package would be a good idea, to help in a small way. I didn’t expect it to have the scope it ended up having, but I’m very grateful that it has grown beyond my original intentions. .
“Too often, the conversation around helping others doesn’t involve those receiving help,” he said.
“It was brave and wonderful for Rasheed to gracefully allow us to highlight his game. Interactive media are rooted in active participation. ”
At the time of writing, the pay-what-you-want campaign has raised more than $ 650,000, far exceeding its initial funding goal of $ 500,000.
Proceeds will go to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, providing food assistance and protection for Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.
“I just want to thank everyone,” Abu-Eideh said. “It simply came to our notice then. Even if a person didn’t have enough money to contribute and just shared or tweeted or posted about it, or just liked a post about it, I want to thank everyone. ”