Exclusive: Interview with banned Palestinian game developer

Last week, I covered the controversy around Fursan al-Aqsa: The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the attempts by the International Legal Forum to ban the game off Steam. Now, game dev Nidal Nijm has come forward for an exclusive interview. We discuss the attempts to ban his game, hypocrisy around DEI initiatives in gaming, and how a return to the less divisive 90s era of gaming might be good for the all of us. Interview begins below:

Participation Goblin: It is often said that bringing attention to a product that interest groups want to be banned will result in more sales of that product. Did this happen with Fursan al-Aqsa after our article went up – did you notice a spike in sales?

Nidal Nijm: Yes, indeed, the controversy of my game acted like a double sided blade. On one side this is a reason why my game did not get proper coverage from other gaming websites, big youtubers and streamers which could substantially increase the visibility of the game and could result in my game being a truly commercial success, like StellarBlade. But on the other side, this is the biggest selling point of my game, like, hey here we have the “Anti-COD” game, the opposite of mainstream media kind of shooter game, a game which allows you to play as “terrorists” (because terrorism is a very subjective matter, broad in scope, a man’s terrorist can be another man’s hero). And this was the reason why my game made in the spotlights of many, many news websites –

About the sales, yes, I realized that every article which is posted in any website, social media, every youtube video some streamer does, no matter how big it is, it does increase the sales, including after your article was published, because, every new post about my game means new players will know about it, and may find it interesting and buy it. But I can say that there were some big spike moments where my game had a substantial increase in sales.

The first moment was on its release, then the 2nd moment was after this specific article was published (steam gamers who had my game in their wishlist feared my game could get banned from Steam): Link

Then another big spike moment was after October 7, especially thanks to chinese gamers, after this article was published on one of the biggest gaming portals from china.

Then, the biggest spike moment was after this post here, from Libs of TikTok, one very well and famous Zionist and pro-Israel Influencer. Her post reached more than 3 millions of views.

But this was not just luck, it was a marketing strategy of mine LOL. Before this post take place, I was searching on youtube about controversial political games, and stumbled upon the game Quest for Bush.

I knew about this game, I even played this many years before (and by the way, this game was one of the reasons why I wanted to make fursan al-aqsa, because I thought that the Islamic Resistance in general terms deserved a better game and not that piece of crap), then I also remembered the original game, Quest for Saddam (Quest for Bush is a modded version of this game), and I wanted to search about its creator on social media for trolling him (I used to do this LOL, go for zionists in social media and troll them using my game as a meme, which includes politicians, social media influencer and even Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s official twitter account and other Important personal from IDF Army and so son). I said to myself since neither IGN, Gamespot and other big games will never cover my game, I need to do the marketing by myself LOL.

So I sent a message trolling Petrilla on his twitter and this fucking asshole falled in my “trap”. He contacted Libs of TikTok which made her post about my game on Twitter, and her post reached 3 millions views.

Participation Goblin: The guiding political principle of Nichegamer is opposition to censorship. This is why, despite many of our readers aligning one way or another when it comes to the war in Gaza, we support the right of Fursan al-Aqsa to exist and be readily accessible to curious players. My question is, what has been the reaction of most gamers to your game?

Nidal Nijm: The overall reaction of gamers towards my game was amazingly positive, except some very few people who got butthurt by Fursan al-Aqsa (these minority are either Israeli or pro zionists). You can see clearly on Steam reviews: Link

But something which express the overall message of my game and the players reaction is this meme made by a steam player: Link

Participation Goblin: Globally, many games have been targeted with government bans. China has banned Roblox among many other games, for instance, while Brazil where you live has banned EverQuest. Something I’ve noticed when it comes to censorship is there are a lot of hypocrites who will cry about cancel culture when something they like is being banned but will be smug when it happens to something they hate. I have to ask, do you oppose these other examples of censorship I mentioned?

Nidal Nijm: About censorship in games. I am against censorship in general terms, however, being a muslim, I need to follow my Islamic Values and my Cultural Beliefs. In example, many muslims and arab organizations called for the ban of Six Days in Fallujah game. I myself, did not participate in this campaign. First of all it would be hypocrisy from my part to ask for the ban of this game, second it is that I, personally, do support the rights of histories being told by all sides, not just one side. However, there are somethings, which in example, I would not feel too much comfortable, a game which includes direct offense against my Islamic Religion, or any other Religion, or a disgusting game, which, in example, involves pedophilia or a game about raping women. But if you realize, I think that these kind of games don’t exist, because even though many people defend freedom of speech and are against censorship, but I think that there is a common sense among us, humans, regardless our religion or cultural values, and there is hardly people who go against these common values and common sense. This is not hypocrisy of my part, because, I did exactly this. My game Fursan al-Aqsa is not against Jewish people neither against Jewish Religion, it is against Israeli Military, a mockery against western media and their portrayal of Arabs as terrorists. Since Six Days in Fallujah and other USA Military Games do the same (they are not against Islam or Islamic Values), so I am fine with these games and I defend their rights to exist.

However, taking the opportunity, I would like to remind you all of the hypocrisy of these so called “game journalists”, especially from big portals like IGN, Gamespot, PC Gamer, Games Radar and others. I am not saying that my game needs coverage from these websites to be successful, but yes, being showcased on these websites, especially on their affiliate showcases, like Summer Games Fest, PC Gaming Show, Future Games Show, this would indeed make my game gain more visibility and more sales. Fursan al-Aqsa is a very good and solid game, better and more fun than many AAA games (steam players said this). So why they do not cover my game? Why they call for the importance of new perspectives but simply ignore the existence of my game Fursan al-Aqsa? They know about my game because I pitched them thousands of times and even received emails confirmations that my message was received.
I am a muslim, we muslims are taught that people differ from others (some are better than others) according to their good deeds, the good deeds they do in their lives. People are not better or worse than others due their skin color or nationality. These are words of wisdom from our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him):

“All humans are descended from Adam and Eve,” said Muhammad in his last known public speech. “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

In my humble opinion, I am sick of this cancel culture and this new “correct” model we see in mainstream media. I am a muslim, and I am neither leftist, or rightist, however I share many of the values both parties share, but, in talking specifically about games, I see that this model which is called DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) it is not just ruining gaming in a general scope, but this is creating much more racism than ever, it is creating division and polarization and spreading enmity and hatred between gamers. The magic of gaming in the 90s it was that gaming was an universal medium on which we gamers were friends, we would forget our real world differences and immerse ourselves in the fantasy of games. Now this fantasy does not exist anymore in many games. And despite everything, their so called inclusion only applies to what they see is “right”, “good”, “correct”. But it does not apply whenever it comes to us, Arabs and Muslims, and specially in regards to my game Fursan al-Aqsa.

They are calling for a broad variety of backgrounds and perspectives in gaming. So wasn’t this what I made for my game Fursan al-Aqsa? Didn’t you know I released a Demo Version of Fursan al-Aqsa Remake for Android, which I called Fursan al-Aqsa Mobile
But the DEI hypocrisy is ridiculous, because Fursan al-Aqsa Mobile was banned from Playstore some days after I published it there.

Participation Goblin: Do you have plans to make more games in the future? if so, can you share details with us?

Nidal Nijm: At the right moment I decided to give a break on Fursan al-Aqsa development to focus on my personal life and job (I am a web designer and freelance animator). Fursan al-Aqsa sales on Steam, compared to other small indie games, makes it a successful game, however, not enough for me to earn my living just from this game. But this is not a problem at all, since my main objective with this game was not to make it a commercial success, but to piss off Zionists and expose the hypocrisy of mainstream media including the hypocrisy within the gaming industry. And I am sure that this objective was accomplished with excellence!

Once my financial situation becomes more stable, in sha Allah (God’s willing), I plan to continue the development of Fursan al-Aqsa Remake (since the classic is already finished), adding new content, new maps, new missions, new game modes including an online multiplayer mode.

Fursan al-Aqsa: The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque is available now on Windows PC (via Steam)


About

Participation Goblin is six feet tall, but only managed to win participation trophies in sports. He was always a much better gamer than a jock.


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