Phone Story, an iPhone game, has become the latest app to be given the boot from Apple’s App Store due to satirical references to sensitive topics.
Created by Italian devs Molleindustria, the title contains four mini games, each designed to highlight ‘troubling supply chain’ issues surrounding smartphone makers (there’s no mention of Apple specifically). It depicts the exploitation of child labour in third world countries, coltan extraction in Congo, e-waste in Pakistan and lastly, suicides of factory workers, clearly in reference to the controversy involving Apple’s Chinese partner Foxconn.
Molleindustria describes the title as “an educational game about the dark side of your favorite smart phone” and calls for gamers to “follow your phone's journey around the world and fight the market forces in a spiral of planned obsolescence”.
According to an email response from Apple, the reason the game was pulled was because it breaks specific App Store guidelines with portrayals of "violence or abuse of children" and "excessively objectionable or crude content".
The app also reportedly broke Apple’s rules on in-app payments, which Molleindustria claims would go to charities once its own costs were recovered.
The Chilling Effect
The ban raises yet more questions about Apple’s seemingly draconian App Store policy and the issue of censorship.
Speaking to Gamasutra, developer Paolo Pedercini, explained: "Here's the problem: the unanimous reaction from developers community has been, 'Wow, it's incredible Phone Story made through Apple's review process'.
“To me, this signals a full acceptance of a regime of censorship, the equivalent, for developers, of what journalists call the 'chilling effect'. I'm sure that Apple doesn't spend that much time in policing its marketplace, because the developers are already censoring themselves."
Apple makes it clear in its guidelines: "We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, 'I'll know it when I see it'. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it."
It’s unclear whether the app will ever be allowed back in the App Store unless serious changes are made, which would seem unlikely considering the nature of its content. However, we can’t help but think there are more sensible ways than a Breakout-inspired simulation of suicides to enlighten the public about the very real and grave consequences of Western consumerism.
Phone Story is currently available on the Android Market.