Apple has removed an iPhone app called Phone Story — a darkly satirical mini-game collection that exposes the ugly side of smartphone production — from the App Store, perhaps after realizing that the subject matter hit a little close to home.Molleindustria, which is well-known for making probing titles that take on big forces like oil barons (in Oiligarchy, a global strategy game about depleting the planet’s resources) and the Catholic Church (in the self-explanatory Operation Pedopriest).
Its latest release, “an educational game about the dark side of your favorite smartphone,” sets its targets directly on Apple, as you follow a new iPhone’s release from mines in the Congo, through the oppressive Foxconn factories and to planned obsolescence in a gadget-obsessed West.
For Phone Story’s “Suicides” mini-game, for example, you play as net-bearing medical staff who are attempting to catch workers as they throw themselves from the roof. The real-world Foxconn in Taiwan saw 14 successful suicide attempts in 2010, and three so far in 2011.
The game was approved by Apple (unlike the Android Market, every app that is submitted for release on iTunes is thoroughly checked and tested by the Cupertino gatekeeper) and hit the iPhone App Store on Sept. 9. But on Sept. 13, Phone Story was taken down and banned from sale.
In a phone call to Molleindustria, Apple stated that the game violated four rules for iOS app creation. Its depictions of child abuse (code 15.2), objectionable or crude content (16.1) and promises to turn over a portion of the money to charity (21.1 and 21.2), were good cause for the app’s removal, Apple claims.
The developer wrote on its website: “We are currently considering two steps.” Option one is to “produce 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.” A more realistic step will be to “release a version for the Android market and jailbroken iOS devices.”
Updated Sept. 14, 2011, 14:20: Following through on its promise, developer Molleindustria has now released Phone Story onto the welcoming shelves of the Android Market.