Apple's Stance On Controversial Games Is A Little Insulting

Apple has had some problems recently with "serious" titles on its iOS store, which have been falling foul of some rather tight restrictions of what can and can't be represented in a game. We've seen a World War II game barred for using historically-accurate Japanese flags, and more recently, a game about Syria knocked back because it's about a contentious political topic.

You would think that, in the wake of protests about these restrictions, Apple would be doing something to maybe clean things up a little, or respond to public criticism. Nope. VentureBeat has posted some of the guidelines developers must adhere to when making games (or apps in general) for the App Store, and they basically tell you to shove it.

We view apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticise a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store.

How diplomatic.

You hear that, game developers? Never mind that your medium allows for powerful artistic and political statements to be made, and that it's the field you're trained and qualified to work in. That stuff just doesn't fly here. If you want to criticise a religion, write a book. Why? Oh, it's complicated, so let's just leave it at that. It's complicated. OK?

Apple: ‘Want to criticise religion? Write a book' - don't make a game [VentureBeat]


    Just one reason why the Apples will not dominate the App market forever. The Android store is already overtaking, the WP7/8 store has console quality games (though overpriced). Developers are aware that there are options and more and more will choose to leave the Apple ecosystem the more they clamp down on creativity.

    I'll frequently defend some of Apple's products and practices, but that's just stupid.

    I understand where they're coming from. Apple certainly doesn't want bad press for its platform because it accepts apps that make light of, or trivializes certain issues, or vilifies certain people because it's their marketplace and their name is tied to it. Besides, it's their platform to do with as they please no matter how much of a stake we might think we have in the ecosystem as users or as developers. They've always made that clear.
    But ultimately I think it really depends on the context and spirit of the game or app in question. and should be handled on a case-by-case basis. In this case, it makes sense for Apple to reject the game.
    The issues that drive the current conflict can't be boiled down to stats and units on a game, and rather than inform or educate, the game may simply serve to trivialize the struggle that real people are going through.
    Who's to say that the game might not have done just well had the devs not chosen to use a real life current conflict, or rather chosen a historical one?

      But Apps that are rip offs (Fleecing the people who buy them) pirated or fake games are fine.

      Edit: this wasn't meant to be a reply.

      Last edited 18/01/13 1:51 pm

      We're not talking about frogger or space invaders here. If it were just a matter of people putting a "syrian civil war" skin on some random game, I'd agree that there's no point - though not that it should necessarily be censored for it. But games can be, and are, far more complex than just stats and units with a particular thematic skin. Games can, and do, tell stories, stories that can be just as considered and serious as those told by creatives in another medium. What apple are saying is you're allowed to tell a story in a book, but not in a game.

      I don't know, receiving bad press for being unaccepting or intolerant of different viewpoints is just as bad as being seen to support one viewpoint or another by proxy. The problem with using a historical conflict or a made up one is that it is not the story the devs wanted to tell. You could always use metaphors and simulacrums to tell a story that has enough similarities to let the player know what you are referring to. However, the further you distance yourself from the truth, the easier it is for people to just dismiss it as a story.

      Frankly, Apple's attitude and response is appalling, and another reason for me to dislike their practices. They are basically saying that you can have an opinion, but they'll only allow you to express it if it supports their own.

    Can you publish a book which is nothing but the source code and compilation instructions for a game which was pulled down/refused?

    According to their own rules, apparently you can.....

    I'm playing devil's advocate here and saying yes, Apple, do what you want.
    They want the app store to be as kid-friendly as possible. They want parent's purchasing decisions to be influenced by what they think their kids will want to play. And in the tablet market, for example, where you can pass the iPad over to the backseat in return for an hours worth of quiet children, the app store's image is key. It's why there's no pornography there, either.
    Now, I'm all for freedom of speech, but it's Apple's right, as the platform holder, to shy away from political issues if they so choose. Its all about image, and branding. And if distributing a game about the Syrian conflict has the slightest chance of negatively affecting their potential market, I for one understand why they'd decide not to distribute it.

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