"How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?"
- Faranheit 451
A recent Kill Screen article brought to my attention a policy travesty that raises serious concerns regarding accessibility to politically and socially relevant games. Following the completion of Endgame: Syria, a "news game" that seeks to simulate the stakes and strategies in the ongoing war in Syria, Apple rejected the title from the app store. According to App Store guidelines, the company forbids games that "solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity."
Of course there are plenty of other reasons for Apple to protect their consumers from potentially offensive games. Their policy against any "real world entities" could be a sure-fire way to protect themselves from criticism. Alternatively, the company could be concerned that users might associate offensive content with Apple's brand, thereby harming the "App Store" brand itself. Yet the term has already become so ubiquitous (despite Apple's legal effort to maintain brand hegemony), that there is hardly an alien concept that the app store functions more as a massive library than a finely pruned garden.
In fact, I think we should start thinking of app stores as libraries. With smart phones in
Again, I am not suggesting Apple should lose their right to decide what can and cannot appear in their app store. Indeed, I am less concerned about Apple and more concerned about how we approach the distribution and accessibility of games as a whole. Yes, I think the policy reprehensible, but the company will not be the last to avoid scrutiny by suppressing controversial works. As games become an increasingly important medium for politically and socially relevant messaging, we should seriously consider what the future holds for our freedom to play.
In the meantime, we should also remember why banning books seldom works. When a library bans, say, Catcher in the Rye, demand remains, or even grows. Thanks to stalwart librarians, parents, students, and others, the works are made accessible through other means. To that end, and with no judgement on the quality of the work at all, Endgame: Syria is free to download for Android via Google Play and is playable online at GameTheNews.net.