Apple bans games that deal with serious issues from its app store. Some of the most high-profile banned games have come to Android and the web, so you can play them yourself to see what all the fuss is about.
The app store’s guidelines state that “We view apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book.”
Apple is fine with games containing graphic violence and gore, but one thing they won’t tolerate is games that explore serious sociopolitical issues.”Write a book,” Apple tells game developers who want to explore these issues.
Submitted to Apple’s app store as Sweatshop HD, Sweatshop is a tower defense-like strategy game that sees you running a sweatshop. In spite of its cartoon graphics, the game is meant to be a serious, thought-provoking game about sweatshops and manufacturing in general. You have the ability to hire child laborers and cut corners to save cash, or you can hire more highly-skilled workers and strive to eliminate dangers in your workplace at the cost of your profits. The game’s mechanics put you in the hot seat and allow you to explore the consequences of your choices, offering a new perspective on the issue of sweatshops.
Sweatshop HD hasn’t yet been ported to Android — no surprise, as it’s rejection from Apple’s app store is fairly recent. However, you can play Sweatshop in its original Flash form in a web browser. You may also be able to play it in your browser on Android devices with Flash.
Phone Story is a satirical game that explores the full story of our smartphones — not just iPhones, but Android phones and everything else. The game tells the player about some of these issues, from precious metals being mined by enslaved children in the Congo and the Foxconn suicides to planned obsolescence and the problems of pollution due to electronic waste. The game is short and its mini-games are simple and crude, but the juxtaposition of serious issues and dead-simple smartphone-style game mechanics can be seen as a satire on the silly and trivial things we use our smartphones for, in spite of their huge hidden costs.
In a Permanent Save State
In a Permanent Save State is a surreal and abstract game described as being “about the collective afterlives of seven overworked laborers who committed suicide in the Foxconn camp, commissioned by Apple.” It’s one game designers’ response to the Foxconn suicides and the conditions the people assembling not just iPhones, but most other electronics we all use. The game stands out visually with its hand-drawn graphical style.
Endgame: Syria is a so-called “newsgame,” which attempts to explore current events through game mechanics. Endgame: Syria take the form of a trading card game looking at the conflict in Syria. The game is divided into political and military phases that explore the political and military aspects of the conflict. It’s not perfect, but it’s an interesting attempt at turning the news into an interactive game that may reach people the news wouldn’t reach otherwise.
Smuggle Truck is an over-the-top driving game where you’re responsible for smuggling your passengers across the US border while dealing with exaggerated physics that cause them to fly out of your truck. The game is controversial and is seen as offensive by many, but the developer’s website says the game is a commentary on the difficulty of immigrating to the US legally:
“As we lived through a painful 12 months of our friend struggling through the absurd legal minefield that surrounds U.S. immigration, we felt that we should create a game that touches on the issue. The comment was thrown around that ‘it’s so tough to legally immigrate to the U.S., it’s almost easier to smuggle yourself over the border’, and thus Smuggle Truck was born.”
After its rejection from the app store, the game was submitted as “Snuggle Truck,” which replaces your passengers with cuddly teddy bears — something that can be seen as a shot at Apple’s policies.
If you purchased the Humble Bundle for Android #2, you already own Smuggle Truck (and Snuggle Truck) and can download it from your Humble Bundle page or the Humble Bundle Android app.
OnLive isn’t a game in and of itself, but its cloud-gaming app has apparently been sitting in a “waiting for approval” state for over a year now. If you want to use a cloud-gaming service, you’ll need to use a PC, Android tablet, or another device — Apple won’t approve it so you couldn’t use OnLive on your iPad if you wanted to.
iOS is different from Android in that Apple has a veto over what can be run on their devices. A game banned from the app store can’t be installed at all without jailbreaking, while a game banned from Google Play could be installed via sideloading. Moreover, jailbreaking an iPad is considered a crime in the US under the DMCA.