Apple has banned a politically charged iPhone game that tackles human rights issues associated with mass-produced electronics.
Benjamin Poynter's In A Permanent Save State is a surreal and visually striking interactive narrative that the creator says imagines the spiritual afterlife of seven overworked laborers who have committed suicide, alluding to real-life events at Foxconn's electronics manufacturing plants in 2010. But the game was quietly removed from the App Store less than an hour after it went live earlier today.
It's unclear which part of Apple's guidelines the company claims the game violated, but sources familiar with Apple's review process have pointed us to app guidelines against "objectionable content," (16.1) and depictions which "solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity" (15.3) as the most likely culprits.
An Apple representative did not respond to a request for comment.
In an email sent to The Verge, Poynter described the point of the game as one of empathy, not anger. "I related quite a bit to the situation of these young people and the stress that comes with not seeing the end of things," he says, noting that Phone Story was a significant influence for the project. "I guessed in my mind what they would have wanted to see in their eternal setting, as I had visions of it myself."
"I wanted to go all in."
In the past, Apple has dutifully quashed apps it considers too controversial, especially when they critique issues that hit too close to home. Paolo Pedercini's Phone Story — a playable parody which looks at the ethical concerns surrounding the lifespan of a smartphone, from the mining of rare earth minerals to the hazardous smelting of abandoned components — was also banned from the App Store on grounds of being "objectionable." More recently, another political app, Drones+, which uses maps and news headlines to send alerts whenever a US drone strike occurs, was banned on similar grounds.
Poynter suspected that things might turn out this way, despite that he kept Foxconn mostly out of the picture to concentrate on the human and spiritual side of the tragic events. But he says he was determined to see it to completion all the same. "I wanted to go all in. No looking back," he said, "even if it meant offending certain groups or corporations."