Before Israel’s war in Gaza, Palestinian programmer Doaa Ghandour was working on Palestine Skating Game’s grind rails. Any skater — be that skateboarding or roller skating — knows rails are essential to street-style skating. In Palestine Skating Game, these grind rails weave through the West Bank, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater-style, for use as you spray graffiti on the Israeli-built separation wall.
It’s easy to see the appeal of Palestine Skating Game in its early prototype on Itch.io: The futuristic Bethlehem is made all the more colorful with paint splatters and graffiti, set to what the team describes as “Arabic electronic music.” And it’s designed to be enticing: “The idea is that if you immerse Westerners in that kind of art and music from the region, you’ll start to actually see people from the region as human beings,” Palestine Skating Game’s current project lead told Aftermath in November.
Hey all. Fundraising for our teammate Doaa who's stuck in Gaza. Most of her immediate family was killed in an airstrike. Also, she's an experienced Unity app coder and a work visa abroad ANYWHERE would help her get out.— Palestine Skating Game (@PalestineGame) January 31, 2024
$1258 raised so far. https://t.co/k7BFsFLX1L pic.twitter.com/e3CAr6C9v9
But Ghandour’s been unable to focus on Palestine Skating Game as Israeli forces continue to destroy Gaza. On Dec. 3, Ghandour’s family home was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike that killed several family members and injured their sister with special needs, according to the GoFundMe page. That’s why the team is looking to raise $48,000 in funding for the family as they look elsewhere for their basic needs and shelter. They’ve raised $8,000 at the time of this writing, and are asking fans for support and advice on other avenues for Ghandour and their family.
Israel’s war in Gaza is entering its fourth month. Nearly 28,000 people have been killed in Gaza, 388 in the occupied West Bank, and 1,139 in Israel, according to Al Jazeera. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is currently hearing a genocide case against Israel, wherein it argues that “the acts and omissions by Israel complained of by South Africa are genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group,” as reported by Vox. Israel denies the accusation, saying its attacks are justified as a response to Hamas’ terrorist attack in Israel on Oct. 7, where roughly 1,200 people were killed.
“Israeli Occupation Forces have cut off all medical supplies, as well as water and food, from Palestinians in Gaza, amidst the continued carpet bombing and genocide. It has left our friends to navigate the most severe humanitarian crisis of our time,” the fundraiser reads.
Palestine Skating Game has been in development for roughly two and a half years. The inspiration initially hit after the project lead, who was granted anonymity by Polygon, saw We Are Lady Parts, a TV show about an all-women Muslim punk band. Development has changed since then — it had to. “We have to acknowledge the existence of a lot more suffering,” the project lead told Polygon. “We are having to do the thing where we had one creative vision for the project, and now we have to figure out how that changes with respect to the events unfolding.”
The project lead said the team, which is Ghandour, writer Hadeel, and himself with four other developers and volunteers, want to make it easy for people — even those unfamiliar with the conflict — to see what’s happening in Gaza. “We want to make it easier for people to see, Oh, here’s how the West Bank has been slowly eaten up and balkanized,” he said. “We also just want it to be something that people want to share with their friends. There should be so many fucking cool things in this game that people will immediately want to say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to see this.’”
The Palestine Skating Game team — the core group, four paid developers, and roughly 15 volunteer developers — is working on a full vertical slice, or a polished, short demo, of the game. They’re also hoping to run a Kickstarter, GoFundMe campaign, or other investment to fund more development.
Correction: This story has been edited to fix a transcription error.