Palestinian software developer Rasheed Abu-Eideh has been working in the games business for over 10 years.
Today, her work is used as the centerpiece of a new charity package, available on the independent platform itch.io, raising funds to support those trapped in the lingering humanitarian crisis in Palestine.
Developed alone by Abu-Eideh over two years, Liyla and Shadows of War tells the story of a young Palestinian girl and her family living in Gaza during the 2014 war, recalling real events that took place during the seven weeks of conflict over his playing time of about 15 minutes.
Many of the scenes depicted echo more recent events in last month’s attacks on Gaza, in which Israeli shelling killed more than 250 Palestinians, including 66 children, as well as destroyed 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 going on on the ground and interact with it, they will come and support your case. We have seen this happen with Black Lives Matter, and we are experiencing the same with the Palestinian cause.
“We don’t just need to fundraise for Palestine,” he said. “We have to raise awareness. We need people to understand what is going on on a daily basis. It is my way of resisting this occupation. It is not a fun thing to do. This is something I have to do.
Angered by the suppression of pro-Palestinian voices in the mainstream media at the time, Abu-Eideh became determined to find a way to express the frustrations and grievances of his compatriots to a wider and global audience.
“I tried to translate the feelings Palestinians feel and what they experience in their lives,” Abu-Eideh said.
“Thanks to Liyla, I tried to bring this experience to the players. We get the impression that your decisions don’t matter. No matter what decision you make, it won’t change anything because you are living under occupation and under attack.
“I was also thinking of families and children,” he said. “If I lost one of my children in such an attack, how would I react? How does that feel? I wanted people to understand how difficult it is to be in such a situation. I couldn’t just ignore the feeling of doing nothing.
When originally released in 2016, the game was initially rejected by Apple’s App Store due to its political comments.
The resulting decline in social media from the wider gaming community boosted awareness of Abu-Eideh and his project, generating an unexpected wave of support and critical praise.
“Websites and journalists were talking about the game and making it more popular,” Abu-Eideh said.
“It was a breakthrough, I think. I have been nominated for many awards and have participated in many events around the world. It was shocking, in a strange way.
Initially comprising around two dozen games, support for the bundle quickly took hold. Within days, hundreds of creators and tens of thousands of backers rallied around the campaign as the news spread.
“It’s huge,” Abu-Eideh said. “It shows how much the perspective changes on Palestinian history.”
In addition to Liyla and Shadows of War, donors will have access to hundreds of games, assets, and soundtracks, all donated for free by other game developers and media creators around the world.
The pack was put together by Alanna Linayre, Founder and Creative Director of Toadhouse Games, a New York-based independent game studio that specializes in creating games with the goal of destigmatizing mental illness and promoting self-care. .
As a person living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), she was inspired to action after watching videos taken by Palestinians during the latest attacks in Gaza.
“I could see many of the same symptoms that I have forming in young children,” Linayre told Al Jazeera.
“I thought a game pack would be a good idea, to help in a little way. I didn’t expect it to have the reach it eventually did, but I’m very grateful that it went beyond my original intentions.
“Too often, the conversation about helping others does not involve those who are receiving help,” she said.
“It was brave and wonderful for Rasheed to graciously allow us to showcase his game. Interactive media is rooted in active engagement.
At the time of writing, the Pay What You Want campaign has raised over $ 650,000, far exceeding its initial fundraising 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 just want to thank everyone,” Abu-Eideh said. “This amount is crazy. Even if a person didn’t have enough money to contribute and they just shared or tweeted or posted about it, or just liked a post about it, I want to thank everyone.