Back in January, we reported on the game Smuggle Truck, a game by Boston-based developers Owlchemy Labs. In Smuggle Truck, the player races an old pickup truck through a desert, attempting to cross the border without letting too many immigrants bounce out of the back. This struck many as unqualified poor taste; media and pop-culture representations of undocumented immigrants are already negatively racially loaded, and inhumane United States immigration policies are responsible for ever-increasing numbers of border-crossing deaths, which reached a record 378 last year.
Now, word comes that Apple has rejected the game for its app store, meaning that it won’t be played on the iPhone, iPod or iPad.
Apple makes up a massive part of today’s gaming market, so the developers agreed to quickly make an alternate version. And while they’re contractually obligated not to disclose the terms of their rejection, the changes spell it out. The new version is called “Snuggle Truck,” the poor people are replaced with day-glo animals, and the border is now the entrance to the zoo — where, says developer Alex Schwartz, “[the animals] are provided plenty of food, water, shelter, and state-of-the-art health care.” And Snuggle Truck looks like a lot of fun; so much fun, in fact, that it’s not clear why they couldn’t have just made it first.
Needless to say, Owlchemy isn’t giving up on Smuggle Truck; it’ll still be available on non-Apple platforms. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the first change Owlchemy’s made; back in March, they announced the addition of a “legal mode,” which switched the player over to a screenshot of a brown-skinned man and a skeleton in the waiting room of the ‘Department of Totally Legal Immigration,’ with a twenty-year countdown timer. Honestly? I found this addition legitimately funny, not to mention fairly accurate.
Owlchemy’s clearly got a lot of talent. Here’s hoping that, for their next game, they’ll opt to pick on someone a bit less disenfranchised. Kudos to Apple for using their gatekeeping powers in the name of equitable representation.