Earlier this month, Google banned three violent anti-Hamas games from its Play Store. The games—which could be played on any Android smartphone—were uploaded in the last week of July, when Israel’s Operation Protective Edge was at its peak.
Though the games weren’t quite as successful as Flappy Bird, they took off like wildfire. One was a spoof of Whac-A-Mole called ‘Whack the Hamas.’ A description of the game ‘Gaza Assault: Code Red’ challenged potential users: “Terrorist cells are launching rockets into your country, do you have what it takes to protect your citizens?” The rules of the app were simple: the player would take control of an IDF drone equipped with powerful weapons, and aim to hit targets in Gaza. It was loosely based on real IDF tactics. ‘Bomb Gaza,’ which was posted on July 29, simply required the player to “drop bombs and avoid killing civilians.” Before Google removed the app on August 4 it was downloaded over 1,000 times.
Many Google users expressed outrage in the feedback section of the ‘Bomb Gaza’ page, reports The Telegraph. “To think that you can turn genocide, murder and ethnic cleansing into a game is absolutely disgusting,” said one. “My beloved brothers and sisters are dying in Gaza and some stupid ignoramus decides to make a game like this,” said another.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Chris Doyle, the director of The Council for Arab-British Understanding, said these games normalize violence. “We’ve seen huge amounts of hate language and bigotry over the past few weeks. It’s the last sort of things that’s needed… These games glorify the horror and violence of the bombing of Gaza.”
“You can have video games that deal with war, but when you base it in a reality of a conflict that’s going on right now it’s extremely problematic,” he said.
Google removed the games from the Play store in the first week of August. A company spokesperson said “we remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies,” but would not comment on the Gaza games.
The Israeli developers of these apps have a different perspective altogether. One of the developers of ‘Bomb Gaza,’ Roman Shapiro, told The Daily Beast that “the game was a joke made in 2 hours.”
“It is based on avoiding killing civilians,” he said. “As usual, Jews are demonized by everyone. Not surprised. Fuck them all.”
The developer of ‘Whack the Hamas,’ Avishay Segal, told The Times of Israel that he saw the removal of his game as “unfair.”
“Our app doesn’t advocate for any type of violence against groups of people based on anything, be it on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity,” he explained. “We developed the app only for fun and relaxation, for the people who are being killed every day by a terrorist group.”
(Image: Screenshot by author)