Gaza-Israel video games cause controversy

image source, PLAYFTW
image captionBomb Gaza was removed from Google Play and Facebook following criticism

Several games relating to the Israel-Gaza conflict have been removed from Google's Android store and Facebook, but others remain.

Bomb Gaza - in which players control an Israeli military jet that attacks missile-firing Palestinian militants - is no longer available on the sites.

But Rocket Pride - which sees players attempt to outmanoeuvre Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system - is still available on Google Play.

Advocacy groups criticised the games.

"Games that glorify violence or normalise conflict when referring to an actual conflict that is happening as we speak are deeply problematic and deeply distasteful," Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab British Understanding, told the BBC.

image source, BestArabicGames
image captionRocket Pride involves trying to guide a missile around Israel's Iron Dome defence system

"Google, Facebook or any other company that host such games, should be reviewing their policies and making absolutely all efforts to ensure that such games are not hosted on their platforms."

Amnesty International UK added that it thought the games were "in highly questionable taste" bearing in mind the "terrible suffering" caused by the conflict.

"[Gamers] should consider closing their war games app and instead read about real life right now in Gaza City, Rafah or indeed in southern Israel," said Allan Hogarth, the group's head of policy.

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said it needed to look into the titles in question before commenting.

'Resistance missiles'

image source, Simon Rosenzweig
image captionApple allowed Iron Dome - Missile Defense on the iOS store

The Daily Dot was one of the first news sites to bring attention to the phenomenon when it named several Android games relating to the conflict on Monday.

Many of the titles that are still online were released in the past few weeks and involve the player taking control of Israel's Iron Dome system to destroy incoming missiles.

"Intercept the rockets launched by Hamas by clicking on them and activating the Iron Dome. Hurry up, civilians are threatened and you will be held responsible if anything happens," reads the description of Iron Dome by Gamytech.

Apple's iOS store features a similar title - Iron Dome Missile Defense, released by Simon Rosenzweig on 30 July - however, its description is more vague, referring instead to an unnamed "enemy".

Google Play also features Rocket Pride by Best Arabic Games, in which the player is tasked with "supporting heroes besieged in the Gaza Strip from an oppressive occupier" by "controlling the resistance missiles and hitting the objectives assigned to them".

image source, Gaza Assault: Code Red
image captionGoogle removed Gaza Assault: Code Red following complaints

Google has, however, removed:

  • Gaza Assault: Code Red, in which the player controls an Israeli drone that drops bombs on people and buildings from above
  • Whack the Hamas, in which the gamer is told to target members of Hamas as they emerge from tunnels and is described by its developer as "for fun and relaxation, for the people who are being killed every day by a terrorist group"
  • Bomb Gaza, in which the player attempts to kill militants but avoid civilian casualties, while listening to "Israel's theme music"

The games had attracted negative reviews from some other Android device owners before being deleted.

A spokeswoman for Google would not discuss specific apps, but said: "We remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies."

The firm's developer's terms and conditions ban apps that advocate "against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin", and/or are judged to threaten other users.

image source, Facebook
image captionWhack the Hamas has been removed from Google Play, but is still advertised on Facebook

A spokesman for Facebook was unable to provide comment or confirm who was responsible for removing Bomb Gaza from its platform.

Curated stores

Other titles relating to the conflict - including Raid Gaza, a Flash-based game - have also been released to run on desktop computers.

One industry watcher suggested the major mobile app store owners were relatively well positioned to tackle complaints.

"The difference between Google Play and Apple iOS is that on the Apple's store apps are vetted before they are listed, while on Play, Google curates but only takes things down after they are published," said Ian Fogg, a tech analyst at the IHS consultancy.

"But in both examples they are managed experiences, which makes them better at handling this kind of thing than random websites that allow an app to be downloaded to a PC."

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