updated 07:45 pm EDT, Thu September 15, 2011
Satiric app depicted child labor, worker suicide
Apple has removed from sale the game "Phone Story," a retro-styled satiric app that hoped to use its content to make a point about the hidden cost of consumer electronics, most notably Apple's iPhone. While the game was in violation of Apple's developer guidelines -- a fact creator Paolo Pedercini readily concedes -- he says his intention was not to shock but to offer sharp criticism of modern tech consumerism generally, reports Giant Bomb.
Pedercini has previously worked on controversial and political "statement" type games, including "McDonald's Videogame" which illustrated concerns with the fast-food industry, and "Operation: PedoPriest" which was removed from sale by the Italian parliament.
The "Phone Story" app, which is now available on the Android Market, was divided into four mini-games: in the first, soldiers in the Republic of the Congo force children to dig up the raw materials that go into consumer electronics. Next, players must manipulate a safety net to catch assembly-line workers as they try to jump to their deaths. In the third segment, a thinly-disguised "Apple" employee must toss devices at mindless, hungry consumers. The last game shows impoverished workers struggling to recycle discarded devices.
An Apple employee called Pedercini to inform him of the removal, just hours after the game had been formally announced but almost exactly a week after it had gone on sale. He says he is unaware of how many copies of the game had been sold before its banning. Apple cited four violations of developer guidelines in pulling the app, including the depiction of violence or abuse of children; excessively objectionable or crude content, and two objections concerning apps that include the ability to make donations.
Pedercini says he hopes to make a new version of the app that will use broader metaphors for the child abuse and violence that will pass muster with Apple, but has already ported the game over to Android systems and may release a version for jailbroken devices or the Mac itself through non-Apple channels. Proceeds from the project had been pledged to go to organizations that fight corporate abuses, but ironically the pledge also violated Apple guidelines, which require that apps that solicit donations must be free and must be handled in a certain way. Pedercini objects to the vague interpretation of the term "soliciting" when the app itself didn't include a facility for donations (the donation would have been made from profits).
Though he has issues with both Apple's and Android's guidelines for developers, Pedercini hopes the controversy will generate discussion about the actual issues raised in the game and modern consumerism rather than focusing on Apple's guidelines. The Android version of the game costs $1 and requires Android 2.2 or higher. [via Giant Bomb]