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iPad  header logo

 IPAD NEWS

Sweatshop HD is the latest victim in Apple's war on serious games

Satirical iPad game is removed from the App Store

Product: Sweatshop HD | Developer: Littleloud | Publisher: Channel 4 | Genre: Strategy, Tower defence
For: iPad
 
Sweatshop HD iPad, thumbnail 1
According to UK developer Littleloud, Sweatshop HD is an iPad game that "challenged people to think about the origin of the clothes we buy".

But it has now been removed from Apple's online marketplace. Why? Well, because the App Store gatekeeper was "uncomfortable selling a game based around the theme of running a sweatshop".

Littleloud's game was a skewed spin on tower defence games, where you put together a production line to churn out designer shoes and baseball caps for brands like "CryMark".

But to keep costs down, it paid to ignore a few basic human rights, hire cheap labourers, and treat your underage workforce with only a modicum of respect.

If you can stomach the paralysing guilt of mistreating your virtual workers, you'll bring in cash and ace the level.

Sweatshop HD
Sweatshop HD

We called it a "superbly crafted combination of tower defence game and management sim that's consistently thought-provoking, yet never heavy-handed" in our PG Silver Award review.

The game was released in November 2012, but it was removed earlier this year.

Littleloud's head of games, Simon Parkin, told Pocket Gamer that "Apple removed Sweatshop from the App Store last month stating that it was uncomfortable selling a game based around the theme of running a sweatshop."

"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."

"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."

"Sadly, these clarifications and changes weren't enough to see the game reinstated for sale."

So, if you want to experience it, you'll have to play the free Flash version.

Apple declined our offer to comment on the story.

Phone Story
Phone Story

Sweatshop HD wasn't the first game to feature virtual production lines, and it's not the first game of its kind to be removed by Apple, either.

In Phone Story, Molleindustria depicted the seedy side of smartphone manufacturing, including sweatshop suicides and the harvesting of rare minerals in the war-torn Congo.

Apple pulled the game, saying it violated a number of App Store rules, most noteworthily clause 16.1 - "Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected."

There's also the case of In a Permanent Save State, an artistic game centred on "the spiritual afterlife" of overworked electronics labourers who had committed suicide.

It was removed by Apple for being in violation of that all-important clause 16.1.

Smuggle Truck
Smuggle Truck

Other high-profile apps that have been removed or rejected by The Big A for promoting a controversial cause or highlighting a particularly sensitive issue include satirical border crossing game Smuggle Truck and civil war strategy game Endgame: Syria.

Apple actually speaks about this very issue in the App Store developer guidelines, where it says "we view apps different [sic] than books or songs, which we do not curate."

So, "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."

Games, Apple says, are not the place for social commentary or criticism.
 

Reviewer photo
Mark Brown 21 March 2013
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Show: Latest | Oldest
Joined:
Aug 2012
Post count:
155
@xeroxeroxero | 14:06 - 26 March 2013
@mr_bez Some really excellent points raised there. To pick out one of them - regarding Nintendo and the like - I don't think this kind of game would appeal to the fanbase Ninty is after. "Never say never" and all that, but generally speaking The Big N isn't that keen on controversial video games on its platforms, and when it does take a risk (like with Manhunt 2) it's usually heavily criticised from all quarters. As the handheld ed, I'd love to see this come to 3DS or DSiWare, but I doubt it'll happen.
Joined:
Nov 2011
Post count:
412
mr_bez | 13:21 - 26 March 2013
The Apple vs. Android debate reminds me a lot of the console vs. PC debate. With Apple/consoles, you have a lot less freedom to modify your system and are limited by the decision of the manufacturer as to what content is permitted, but you have the convenience of knowing that when you buy something, it's just going to work. No worrying if your phone/PC has the necessary specs, no worrying about malware and fake apps/software.

I'd rather that Apple allowed this app, no question, but it's worth noting that they are far from alone in their approach.

Could you see this game getting released on a Nintendo console? There's a slim chance it might make it past the PlayStation or XBox gatekeepers, but I doubt it, and I don't think it'll be making its way onto the Amazon App Store any time soon, so you won't be playing this on your Kindle Fire. I'm not sure what Windows Phone 8 or the BlackBerry App Store are like, but I imagine this wouldn't make it on those either.

Apple's business model, as with console manufacturers and most competitors other than Google, is to curate their store, and they factor in how likely something is to cause offence and lead to bad press which could affect their share price. Sometimes their opinion of what is offensive will be different to mine, especially with something as close to the line as this.

I wish that wasn't the case, but I made my choice when I bought my device and I chose Apple, so I've got to face the fact that sometimes they'll ban something that I don't want them to.
Joined:
Jul 2012
Post count:
30
kristan.reed | 12:30 - 26 March 2013
So you're happy with Apple being a moral nanny? That's preferable to you is it?
Joined:
Mar 2013
Post count:
1
@Pixelmoon | 10:48 - 26 March 2013
Creating games to promote serious issues is fine - but that doesn't mean that apple has to be vehicle to deliver the message. While the game could be seen as raising key issues, it can also be seen as distasteful - and that element weighs in a lot heavier because it could effect sales / public image. I surely cant be the only one that thinks this isn't that much of an issue? What's next games about Saville to raise awareness of sexual harassment?
Joined:
Mar 2013
Post count:
1
Nikita Dudnik | 10:49 - 22 March 2013
Desktop version please.
Joined:
Mar 2013
Post count:
1
Pieter Pan | 06:13 - 22 March 2013
Meanwhile back in China Apples products are being produced in a sweatshop. And why does Apple get to enforce these arbitrary standards?
Joined:
Mar 2013
Post count:
1
@csmemarketing | 04:35 - 22 March 2013
Apple needs to stop with the hypocrisy! At least this is a game. The content of the game applies to Apple because they have done it in real life. using Child Labour to make all their i-devices. maybe that's why apple finds it offensive. Why you think apple is the richest company in the world? with trillions of dollars. they paid like 5 cents to assemble each iphone.
Joined:
Mar 2013
Post count:
1
@ZenMagnets | 01:44 - 22 March 2013
Dude. Please make an Android version. We'll buy it. And I want the original version, not the already censored to make apple happy version.
Joined:
Mar 2013
Post count:
1
Konstantin Mitk | 19:19 - 21 March 2013
This is terrible! Sweatshop is one of the best serious games that hase been developed in the last years. I even dedicated a whole paper on how the game provides a novel take on educational game design (http://gambit.mit.edu/readme/academic_papers/fdg2012_submission_82-1.pdf). Apple not just "censoring" content, it is also preventing education.
Joined:
Mar 2013
Post count:
1
@TheAngryDM | 18:47 - 21 March 2013
Considering how quickly the online community lambasts any content provider for providing any content that morally offends them (how DARE Amazon sell whatever?! http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/11/10/amazon.pedophile.guide/index.html?hpt=T2 ), I am not surprised.

Look, we need to make a decision, people: do we want to create storms when distributors DO ACT as moral guardians or when they DON'T ACT as moral guardians. We have to pick one. If we're all going to scream bloody murder every time they don't censor something morally offensive, we have to expect them to censor everything someone might deem morally offensive.
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