Now would be a good time to play Liyla, the game about suffering in Palestine, again

The most important video game in the world right now.

6 mins read

You’ve probably seen the news. Tensions have escalated in the Middle East to a level that can only be described as terrifying. Pardon the language, but what’s happening in Israel and Palestine right now is just fucked, and that’s the most neutral and calm way to describe it.

For those that somehow missed all the news, there was a particularly nasty and violent terrorist attack on a music concert in Israel, and that really shook the nation. Enough so that they renewed their declaration of war, and decided that the proportional response would be to turn the water off and block food and supplies to Gaza. Gaza’s a civilian city where about two million people live. And 50% of them are children.

That’s a war crime, by the way.

And now, following that rapid escalation, across the globe there are now rallies, protests and counter protests. Those are getting every bit as heated as you would expect them to. Social media’s in a total meltdown of armchair opinions, and fuelled by trollbot farms and disinformation is so rife that if you’re not questioning every single thing that you see, you’re almost certainly going to wind up with a broken view of the situation. The sum of it all is that this last week’s events have been horrible, frightening, and enough to genuinely shake your faith in humanity.

Worst of all is that somehow, in all of that, the world seems to be losing sight of the actual victims. The crimes against fundamental human rights are coming in so thick and fast that it’s actually easy to disassociate with reality because it’s genuinely difficult to comprehend how people can do these things to one another. That’s not helped by the active lack of interest in discussing the human cost of it all. Politicians are jumping up to grandstand and proclaim their support of one cause or another, playing this as a battle of ideology and not a war crime tit-for-tat. To the perennially online cultural warriors, meanwhile the entire situation is a tool to spread propaganda. They’re investing so deeply into producing disinformation, and it’s spreading. Again, question everything you see, because most of it is probably deliberately and maliciously misleading.

In short, it’s so easy to get caught up in the discussion of the situation and its implications, for us all, and so we lose sight of the suffering.

And that’s why Liyla and the War of Shadows is so important.

Related reading: Our “review” of the game from back in 2016.

The game, which looks vaguely like the classic horror platformer, Limbo, was developed back in 2016 by an actual Palestinian that lives in West Bank. It tells a story based on actual events, and when you remember that, the events in the game are particularly crushing to experience.

It can be played in about ten minutes. It’s not fun to play at all. It’s important that you do.

Because of the disinformation, and because everything that we see of that conflict happens through the lens of highly motivated interests, we rarely get an insight into what the real question is here: what the experience is like on the ground for Palestinians. In their decrepit, blasted, nightmarish cities of rubble and terror, our inability to conceptualise what it must be like to navigate life as a Palestinian is a big part of the problem. What is their experience of the world and what must they think of the rest of us, as we simply watch on or go through our performative acts of protest and solidarity.

This is best summarised by the game creator’s own notes on his page:

“When the war started in Gaza and i saw the images of the killed kids in their parents hands I was shocked, I had a weird feeling, it’s a combination of sadness, fear, empathy and anger, All what i was thinking of is “what if this happened to me”.

I have chosen to share those feelings in a game to deliver a message of how we are living as Palestinians under this situation

It’s Not Just a Game, It’s a case and call for help.”

Sadly, as relevant as that was in 2016. It’s even more so now. Liyla and the War of Shadows is free. Download it on and play it.

Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

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