Apple, Arbiters Of Art, Say Game About Surviving The Gaza Strip Isn't A Game, Even Though It Is

from the art-thou-kidding? dept

Search for stories about Apple's App Store in the Techdirt archives and you will quickly notice a theme. That theme is that Apple routinely appoints itself as the arbiter of artistic quality and morality when it comes to content within the app store, particularly gaming content, and that its application of these standards swings like some kind of absurd pendulum. Ban a game over here for telling a bible story that includes violence against children, but allow the actual bible to be sold as well. React to the South Carolina massacre by pulling down games about the Civil War because they include images of the Confederate flag. Reject a wargaming simulation, then approve it, and nobody knows how the company might decide to react tomorrow. You often hear that stability breeds a good ground for business, whereas Apple runs its App Store like some kind of experiment in chaos.

And in order to apply its standards in a way that apparently makes the folks at Apple feel all warm and fuzzy inside, it occasionally has to truly lower its explanations to absurd levels of outright lying. For instance, Apple recently disallowed a game about surviving on the Gaza Strip in its store, claiming it wasn't a game at all, but a news publication, even though the briefest review of the app reveals that it's obviously a game.

A game about the Palestine/Israel conflict, Liyla and The Shadows of War, has proved too political for Apple. The technology giant ordered the developer, Rasheed Abueideh, to remove Liyla from the games section of its iTunes app store, claiming it isn't a game and should sit in the news section.

The real question is, is Liyla and The Shadows of War a game? I played it last night, as Liyla is available from Google Play. It's a short platformer with a powerful message and stunning graphics.

The writer goes on from there to describe the plot, the inclusion of reactions to real life events, the graphical elements of the game, and the, well, gameplay. Because it's a game. You have to play to get either a win or lose scenario, there are choices to be made, puzzles to be solved, and stages to complete. It's a platformer, like Mario Bros..

So, why the ban and the lies to support it? Well, one can understand that the Middle East conflict and the ongoing crisis between the Palestinians and the Israelis is among the most touchy of subjects. For a company that wants to keep its brand and its App Store squeaky clean, at least in its own mind, one can imagine that this kind of thing is something Apple wouldn't want to touch. But, misguided as this already is, it becomes all the more so when it can't even bother to stay consistent on the matter. The App Store has available for purchase, for instance, Israeli Heroes, which appears to be an Angry Birds clone in which you lob missiles at bombs that reside under a crescent moon and oh my god, I think I'm about to have an embolism, because come on.

As always, in the midst of this nonsense, the game is available for Android devices, because that garden has no wall around it.

For once, the phrase 'relax, it's just a game' seems apt. Apple take note. Liyla and The Shadows of War is available for Android on Google Play – it's free, it's short and it's definitely a game worth playing.

We've said it before, but we'll say it again: it'd be best if Apple would get out of the art critique business. They're not very good at it.

Filed Under: app store, censorship, games, gaza strip, itunes, video games, walled garden
Companies: apple


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2016 @ 7:06pm

    It's an old dirty trick method, essentially a type of "backdoor" ban, to get rid of something (or at least severely degrade it) by forcibly "reclassifying" it to some other category where it obviously doesn't belong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 27 May 2016 @ 7:35pm

    Worm eaten...

    Old Apple. There comes a time when apples need to be composted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2016 @ 8:11pm

    "That garden has no wall around it"

    Not true, Google also exercises their first amendment right by restricting apps for economic reasons. Want an adblocker? Won't find it on Play but there are plenty on the App Store.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2016 @ 2:26am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on May 27th, 2016 @ 8:11pm

      Google certainly exercises control of what is available on Google Play, yet it's true that Android isn't a walled garden like IOS. If a developer wants to make their application available for Android users, there's ultimately not a lot Google can do about it, as Play is not the only means of distribution.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2016 @ 2:38am

        Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on May 27th, 2016 @ 8:11pm

        Yeah. The key difference is allowing users to install apps outside of the store (with a user selectable setting).
        The Play Store is a walled garden, but the OS itself not so much. I don't begrudge them exercising some control over what is offered there, while letting informed (and not so much) users do what they please outside of it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Groaker (profile), 28 May 2016 @ 10:54am

      Re:

      And just how is this a First Amendment issue? Where has the government stepped in. Without that interference, there is no First Amendment violation.

      This is merely Apple doing what Apple does worst, and all too often. Decide what its customers should see and hear.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2016 @ 5:48pm

        Re: Re:

        He was describing the First Amendment rights of the service providers (particularly the right not to listen to unwanted speech on your sever, in your home, etc.), Apple and Google, no the developer.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2016 @ 2:18am

    and stunning graphics.


    Eh, looks just like Limbo to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 28 May 2016 @ 7:26am

    Apple's "curating"

    Apple's "curating", combines with the impossibility of side-loading apps, is the primary reason why I will never own an iPhone or iPhone-like device.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2016 @ 2:03pm

    The proper response to restrictions on free speech...

    Howzabaout the new, survival concept, game:

    Operation Pegatron: Surviving Shaghai
    - Urban slaves must live through the depredations of
    - an alliance between a vicious government and an
    - evil corporation to become a free people

    Not an Apple game, obviously, but, well - ya know, no Jews, no Muslims, no Israelis or ISISes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2016 @ 6:51am

    Someone needs to remake the old LCD game where you're a fireman and babies are bouncing off a roof and you have to catch them in a net.....

    Replace babies with Apple Employees, replace fireman with 'suicide-prevention worker'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 30 May 2016 @ 10:38pm

    Misplaced

    It's the old "misplaced" strategy. Supermarkets use it when they don't want to stock an item anymore: they'll put, say, an unwanted brand of pickles on the cereal isle; when no one buys (who would think to look on the cereal isle?) discontinuance is "justified."

    Apple obviously can't find a ground to ban the game. But by insisting it be located in the "news" section, where no one will think to look or be able to find it among all the Palestine stories, they have effectively banned it. Without giving the author grounds to challenge a real ban.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    app valley, 31 Aug 2017 @ 9:38am

    Sadly there's no winning here for Apple.

    They publish it on it's merits - They are accused of antisemitism.

    They refuse to publish it on it's merits - They will be accused of favoring the Jewish community or being anti-Muslim.

    They're just looking to a PR friendly reason to not have to publish it and I can't say I blame the mentality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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