UPDATE – It seems that Apple has now changed their mind about Liyla being a game and it is now available on the iTunes App store in the “Games” category. Liyla‘s developer announced it via a tweet. You can now check out Liyla on your iOS device for free.
Liyla & The Shadow War, a platformer that is set in the middle of a war, was recently rejected for the iTunes App Store by Apple, as Apple considered it not appropriate for the “Games” Category. Instead, Apple suggested the developer move Liyla to the “News” or “Reference” categories and remove references to the app as a game. The developer claims it was removed because Apple sees Liyla as a political statement, not a game.
— Liyla (@Liylawar) May 18, 2016
Without the entire back and forth between the developer and Apple, one can’t say with absolute certainty the reasoning behind why Apple decided to reject the app as a game. However, we know that in the past Apple has had issues with games and political statements before, with the confederate flag issue. It often goes beyond that as well, with games like The Binding of Isaac, which Apple rejected because they claim it depicts violence towards children. There are several more instances of games running into problems like Endgame: Syria (which eventually made it into the App Store after a few significant changes), Papers, Please (which also made it on eventually), and several others.
Liyla’s rejection as a game, and the subsequent news on Twitter, has caused a stir within the community. There has been much support sent Liyla’s way (a flood of five star ratings have come in for the Android version), as well as users on Twitter pointing out some possible hypocrisy on Apple’s part.
— Naomi Clark (@metasynthie) May 19, 2016
Our News Editor, Don Parsons, fired up the game to check it out himself. He found it to be a simple platformer that took him around 15 minutes to finish. The end of the game follows with a series of slides of facts about the conflict in Gaza in 2014. It has a slant towards being pro-Palestinian from the beginning, with a claim of war crimes in the use of white phosphorous later in the slides as well—assumedly claiming those opposed to the Palestinians perpetrated said crimes. The gameplay portion, however, doesn’t have any blatant political leanings, from what we saw at least. It shows how war is terrible and puts you in the shoes as a family stuck in the middle of it. However, with the drone strikes on ambulances and hospitals, the setting, and just how the war is set up, it would not be a stretch to suggest that many would immediately think of conflicts going on in the Middle East.
With short gameplay and a wealth of information at the end coming in the form of a political statement, one can possibly begin to see Apple’s viewpoint. That doesn’t necessarily offer a satisfactory justification on their part, but, again, we don’t fully know the reasoning behind Apple’s rejection as we have not seen it in their own words beyond that they feel Liyla would fit into a better app category than “Games.”
TechRaptor has reached out to Apple for clarification.
It seems somewhat likely that Liyla was rejected for political reasons, and if so, it certain reveals Apple’s hypocrisy. It also worsens the already worrying trend they’ve had towards rejecting games. Something as open and ubiquitous as the App Store has no business forcing adherence to their political beliefs. Even more perplexing, what’s so different about the medium of games? They have tons of music, movies, tv shows, books, and more that are full of nothing more than messages and political statements.
Did Apple make the right decision? Is Liyla & The Shadow War a game? Would it fit better in a different category? Share your thoughts in the comments below!