Last month, Littleloud released a game for the iPad called Sweatshop HD, a tower defense game that was designed to “challenge young people to think about the origin of the clothes we buy.” The app description says the game required players to manage an off-shore clothing factory, producing the latest in cheap designer fashions for Britain’s high streets.
Apple apparently took offense to the title, because Sweatshop HD has been removed from the App Store. Developer Littleloud was told that Apple was “uncomfortable selling a game based around the theme of running a sweatshop.”
While that’s an understandable point of view, to be honest, Apple may have overstepped its boundaries just a bit. You see, Sweatshop HD was actually developed in conjunction with a British charity, Labour Behind The Label, in order to make sure that the game was factually accurate.
In the game, players were responsible for hiring and firing workers and ensuring that orders were completed on time while balancing the needs of demanding clients with worker welfare. The game, which had 30 different levels, introduced people to real-world sweatshop issues, overseen by the charity that ensured the game was not exaggeratory.
Sweatshop HD was, in fact, selected by MIT as one of the top five “Best Practice Serious Games,” and the university is planning to publish a paper on the game. Sweatshop HD was also endorsed by several notable media outlets such as PBS and The New Yorker.
“It is the reduction of human beings to numbers, pesky weak flesh in the way of the profit, that is Sweatshop’s frightening strength.” PBS
“My workers kept dying of dehydration, so I begrudgingly had to invest in a water fountain. The longer I played, the more each moving part—workers, children, hats—became abstracted into the image of one big machine.” The New Yorker
It is clear from both the game’s description and the attention that it received that it was designed to be educational in nature, but apparently it shared too much about the real world issue of sweat shops.
Apple pulled allegedly pulled the game for being too realistic. According to Littleloud head of games Simon Parker, Apple referenced in-game occurrences like factory managers “blocking fire escapes” and “increasing work hours for labor” along with child labor as reasons for why the game was removed from the App Store.
Littleloud attempted to make the app suitable for sale by emphasizing that it was a work of fiction, but that was not enough to get the game restored to the App Store. Apple has not commented publicly on its move to remove the game from the App Store, and at this time, it looks like it won’t be reinstated. Currently, you can check out Sweatshop on your computer, as it is available via Flash.
As per its developer page, Apple does not believe that games are a suitable way to express social commentary.
“We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store.”
What do you think of Sweatshop HD? Was Apple right to remove it from the App Store? Let us know in the comments.
[via Pocket Gamer]