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 Sweatshop  game too controversial for Apple
Sweatshop game too controversial for Apple
March 21, 2013 | By Mike Rose

Apple has once again removed a mobile game from its iOS App Store on the grounds that its portrayal of an "uncomfortable" theme violates its review guidelines.

The iPhone and iPad company previously removed mobile game Phone Story from its App Store back in 2011, on the grounds that it depicted child abuse and "crude content."

Now Sweatshop HD, a tower defence game from UK developer Littleloud based around the theme of running a sweatshop, has been removed by Apple as the company "was uncomfortable selling a game based around the theme of running a sweatshop," says Littleloud's head of games (and Gamasutra contributor) Simon Parkin.

"Apple specifically cited references in the game to clothing factory managers 'blocking fire escapes', 'increasing work hours for labour', and issues around the child labour as reasons why the game was unsuitable for sale," he told Pocket Gamer.

He continued, "Littleloud amended the app to clarify that Sweatshop is a work of fiction and was created with the fact-checking input of charity Labor Behind the Label, and to emphasise that the game doesn't force players to play the game in one way or another. Rather, Sweatshop is a sympathetic examination of the pressures that all participants in the sweatshop system endure."

However, despite making these changes, Apple has refused to allow the game to be reinstated and sold on the App Store.

While both of these games have been refused entry to the App Store based on their depiction of real-world issues, another high-profile game Smuggle Truck -- which depicts helping immigrants across a fictional border -- managed to dip around Apple's guidelines by releasing a special edition called Snuggle Truck, complete with cuddly toys instead of people.

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Michael Joseph
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An Inconvenient App.

Todd Boyd
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Make them elves in Santa's Workshop, rather than human beings in a sweatshop. Problem solved?

Joe McIntosh
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That's brilliant.
Another possibility is releasing on Google Play, or Amazon.
Hell they could probably bootleg it. Post an APK on a website. Make it free. People will play it. Rub it in Apple's face.

Brian Tsukerman
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I would be uncomfortable too if a game mirrored one of my companies primary means of producing products. Then people might end up thinking about how the overpriced gadgets they buy are made, and then I'll end up having to sacrifice a minute amount of profit to appease all those people that sent me angry emails! I think instead of all that, I'll just ban the game from distribution on my platform on some arbitrary definition of "unsuitable."

Ben Serviss
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The kicker is hilarious. Maybe re-release it as Snuggleshop HD?

Brian Kehrer
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It's frustrating Apple is able to regulate what appears to be satire.

I worry about the future of freedom of speech, since most 'speech' as defined by law now takes place on private networks. Although, I don't have any good suggestions for a resolution.

Is there any relevant pre-tech example of a walled-garden quite so pervasive as the App Store? At what point do public rights become enshrined in private property?

Kevin Reese
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Apple's all about censoring apps. For consumers, if they don't agree with this approach, they should take the alternatives available. Vote with your wallet. I don't have an iPhone because of this; it's Android for me.

Michael Joseph
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nothing short of anti-trust laws afaik but i am not a lawyer

these are the perils of closed computing which folks like Richard Stallman talk about.

Luke Shorts
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Protection of free speech, in the US legal tradition, merely prohibits the government from enacting restrictions on "protected speech". Other legislations adopt a similar standpoint. There is nothing (or almost nothing) to protect ourselves from getting censored by agreeing to certain terms and conditions regulated by a private contract.

Alec V
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My first app, "Freedom Time" was a light satirical countdown timer during the last months of George W. Bush. Apple rejected it because it was political satire. I appealed to Steve Jobs himself, and he responded less than favorably. I'd hoped things had improved since his departure. Guess not. (More info at

jin choung
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and this is why "walled garden" app stores will always suck when compared to the wider world wide web.

they censor not based on whether something is true or false but whether it is "uncomfortable"? not on whether something is worthy of discussion but on whether it exists as a light and fluffy item of commerce that will help grow the commercial venture of which it is a part. like china, apple's great firewall exists to protect the regime. no different.

it is exactly why hollywood fails to be serious art. only the lightest and fluffiest will do. any semblance of substance must be prologued with overwhelming consensus. any controversy - too risky.

same thing with MMOs.

distrust mediated playgrounds and never forget that they exist not for your sake or the sake of liberty, free speech or any other virtue... but solely for their own in the unending pursuit to increase shareholder value.