Apple deems Palestinian dev's game "not appropriate" for the App Store

UPDATE: Apple relents - Liyla & the Shadows of War published under the App Store's Games category

Apple has asked a Palestinian developer to remove his game from the App Store's "Games" category on the basis of its political content.

Rasheed Abueideh received a notification from Apple that Liyla & the Shadows of War was "not appropriate" for classification as a game on the App Store. "It would be more appropriate to categorize your app in News or Reference, for example," the statement read, while also advising that Abueideh remove references to Liyla being a game from its marketing materials.

Liyla & the Shadows of War is a platformer set in the midst of a fierce battle. It tasks the player with guiding its protagonist, a young girl, through its silhouetted, rubble-strewn levels in an effort to save her family, and includes photos from real-world conflicts in its press-kit. Lilya is also available on the Google Play store, where it remains classified, and unchallenged, as a game.

In the hours following Abueideh's comments about Apple's stance, his Twitter feed has filled with cries of support from the development community.

This is hardly the first time that Apple has taken a stance against the content of certain games on its store, implying a different standard for games than the one it applies to other media. Political content is especially risky for developers, with games like Lucas Pope's Papers Please, Auroch Digital's Endgame Syria and Littleloud's Sweatshop HD among the many that have run aground on Apple's notoriously vague and often contradictory standards.

But the issue goes beyond the political and into the personal. Ed McMillen's The Binding of Isaac, a game based around a story of child abuse, was also rejected, as was HappyPlayTime, a game designed to encourage pride in and exploration of the human body among female players.

Liyla & the Shadows of War received a Reboot Develop Indie Award for visual excellence. It is currently in competition for the Indie Prize at Casual Connect Asia.

Update: Apple has reconsidered its stance on Liyla & the Shadows of War, allowing Rasheed Abueideh to release it under the Games section of the App Store.

The fact that news of Apple's refusal to see Liyla as a game spread rapidly across social media will surprise nobody - except, perhaps, those within Apple who took the decision in the first place. Indeed, in a tweet published yesterday, Abueideh attributed the reversal to the ensuing outcry from the game development community.

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Latest comments (13)

John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of LondonA year ago
This is ridiculous. The game itself is only a few minutes long, but it's still indisputably a game.

On the bright side, without this controversy I would have missed it entirely. So thanks, Apple.
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Daniel Trezub QA Analyst, LudiaA year ago
Anyone can probably list hundreds of war games that have a statement attached to it. EVERY war game has one, but the point is so many of them are so engrained in our minds already (USA is the good guy, everyone else is the bad guy, for example) that anything different from that will be called out.
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Charles Herold Wii Games Guide, about.comA year ago
Imagine if Amazon insisted all political movies be listed not as films but as news. Apple clearly doesn't recognize games as an art form; they'd just as soon people stick with flappy bird clones.
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Show all comments (13)
Thanks, Apple! Now the political statement you wanted to discourage is better known to everyone than it would have ever been had you just quietly accepted it! :)
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Tom Keresztes Programmer A year ago
How many people actually seen the game :
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, AzoomeeA year ago
Thanks to the rejection I just tried it on my Android. Interesting...
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Julian Cram Producer A year ago
So, clicker apps can be classed as games, but this can't?
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft GermanyA year ago
Downloading. Now i'm curious.
Still personally disagree (and I find inconsistent) Apple's guidelines. But I can't deny their involuntary marketing value.
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, AzoomeeA year ago
It is a game if anyone wondered!
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft GermanyA year ago
@Adam: Thanks. I was about to ask myself if "This war of Mine" was a game or not ;)
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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup StudiosA year ago
Happy ending - Apple have relented and it's now on the App Store as a game:

[EDIT: Oh, I missed the article update. As you were!]

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Chris Payne on 23rd May 2016 6:08pm

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Emily Rose Freelance Artist A year ago
It's literally the same mechanically as Limbo, a highly praised game. This was absurd. I'm glad Apple relented. hopefully this opens the doors to more diverse games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Emily Rose on 24th May 2016 7:50am

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer A year ago
Well done, Apple. You've managed to create a set of guidelines that says "Games have to be stupid". And then tell the developers to release fictional material as "News".

It's good that they relented on the reclassification of Liyla but they really, really need to fix those guidelines.
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