Operation Protective Edge in Gaza inspired applications developers to create up-to-date games related to the conflict, but a few of the games and their creators have found themselves entangled in the international political furor surrounding the operation.
A game entitled Bomb Gaza that was harshly criticized by surfers on Google Play Store was removed from the virtual shelves. Another one, entitled Gaza Assault: Code Red, is no longer available for download.
The goal of Bomb Gaza, designed for mobile phones and tablets, is to assume the role of the Israeli army in order to strike as many Hamas terrorists as possible while steering clear of civilians. The terrorists are portrayed as characters in black who fire rockets.
In Gaza Assault: Code Red, the player – who controls an unmanned aerial vehicle – must eliminate the Hamas terrorists but, as in most mainstream games, there are no civilians around.
The title of Bomb Gaza and the timing of its launch drew some angry responses and calls for its removal from Google Play Store.
“Utterly shameful. Real people, many of them children, are dying in Gaza. Many of those who haven’t been killed face life with debilitating injuries, bereavement and without homes," one commenter wrote. "Their suffering is as real as yours or mine, and to make light of it like this speaks of your essential failure as a human being. Shame on the creators of this game, and those who ‘play’ it.”
Other commenters recommended that the game be reported to Google as containing offensive content.
For his part, Roman Shapiro, the developer of Bomb Gaza, refused to answer Haaretz’s questions, but a Google spokesperson said, “This app is no longer available on Google Play. We don’t comment on specific apps but we remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies.”
The current hostilities have engendered several games. Some deal with Iron Dome, and at least one, called What the Hamas, deals with combat in the tunnels. It is similar to the old game Whack-A-Mole, in which players hit the heads of mechanical moles as they emerge from their underground tunnels.
Another game constructed along the lines of Flappy Bird, in which the player is supposed to bombard Israel, is still available in the Google store.
The history of controversial video games dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes back to the 1980s, to a game entitled Intifada, in which players were supposed to disperse riots in the territories while trying to avoid killing demonstrators. If too many were killed, a new and extreme-left government would be elected. The Intifada game caused quite an uproar in its day in Israel and throughout the world.
A game entitled Conflict: Middle East Political Simulator, which came out in the 1990s, gave players the opportunity to act as Israel’s prime minister, running the country until all the surrounding nations collapsed.
Since then, there have been several games dealing with the conflict, some more seriously than others. One example is Peacemaker, in which the players act as prime minister (or the head of the Palestinian Authority) with the objective of making peace.
Another game called Bomb Gaza was also created during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, but it was quite different from the current version. It was critical of Israel, portraying it as being responsible for mass murder in the Gaza Strip.