Apple bars smartphone-criticising game from App Store

Apple has pulled from the iTunes App Store a game that highlighted the various unethical practices that are often employed in smartphone production.Phone Story is produced by Molleindustria, which describes its speciality as "radical games against the dictatorship of entertainment".

Apple has pulled from the iTunes App Store a game that highlighted the various unethical practices that are often employed in smartphone production.

Phone Story is produced by Molleindustria, which describes its speciality as "radical games against the dictatorship of entertainment". The 99c (63p) game depicts the extraction of the conflict mineral coltan, suicides at a Chinese manufacturing firm, e-waste dumps and western consumerism.

Apple pulled the game on Tuesday, hours after it had been launched. It is now available on the Android market.

"Phone Story is an educational game about the hidden social costs of smartphone manufacturing," the game's iTunes description read. "Follow your phone's journey from the coltan mines of the Congo to the electronic waste dumps in Pakistan through four colourful mini-games. Compete with market forces in an endless spiral of technological obsolescence."

According to Molleindustria, Phone Story is an attempt to use smartphone gaming to critique the platform itself. "Under the shiny surface of our electronic gadgets, behind its polished interface, hides the product of a troubling supply chain that stretches across the globe," the game's site reads.

Molleindustria said in a statement on Tuesday that Apple had pulled Phone Story for breaching four App Store guidelines. Two were related to the game's content; as the guidelines state, "apps that depict violence or abuse of children will be rejected" and "apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected".

The game developer sarcastically retorted in its statement that it was considering producing "a new version of Phone Story that depicts the violence and abuse of children involved in the electronic manufacturing supply chain in a non-crude and non-objectionable way".

The other two guidelines that were allegedly breached relate to Molleindustria's claim that "all of the revenues raised [from the game's sale] go directly to workers' organisations and other non-profits that are working to stop the horrors represented in the game".

Molleindustria said the first recipients would be Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (Sacom), a group set up to improve working conditions at outsourcing firms such as Apple partner Foxconn, which suffered a spate of suicides.

However, Apple said Molleindustria had breached guidelines stating that "apps that include the ability to make donations to recognised charitable organisations must be free" and "the collection of donations must be done via a web site in Safari or an SMS".

Molleindustria said it contested these claims of breached rules, as people cannot donate through Phone Story. "Molleindustria simply pledged to redirect the revenues to no-profit organisations, acting independently," the company said.

As well as trying to subvert the iOS platform, Molleindustria also has games (some NSFW) such as Leaky World, "an interactive interpretation of the essay 'Conspiracy as Governance' by Julian Assange", Oligarchy, which lets the player "be the protagonist of the petroleum era", and Faith Fighter, which bears the tagline "religious hate has never been so much fun".

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