Apple has removed and banned the game “Phone Story” from the App store, a mini game collection that exposes some of the collateral damage of creating the best selling smart phone in the market. Phone Story depicted 4-different game scenarios that included scenes exposing labor conditions at Foxconn, where iPhone manufacturing takes place and the increasing number of suicides that take place on Foxconn’s property.
Apple approved and made the game available in its App store on September 9, but four days later on the 13th, the game was banned and removed from the store. The company’s excuse? It violated Apple’s rules because of depictions of child abuse and objectionable content.
But the game’s makers says that those depictions are precisely what makes the game so important.
“Under the shiny surface of our electronic gadgets, behind its polished interface, hides the product of a troubling supply chain that stretches across the globe,” reads Phone Story’s description on its website. “Phone Story represents this process with four educational games that make the player symbolically complicit in coltan extraction in Congo, outsourced labor in China, e-waste in Pakistan and gadget consumerism in the West.”
With a labor force of 1.2 million people, Foxconn is China’s largest private employer and biggest exporter of technology products—including the iPhones and iPads that Americans have come to love.
Foxconn became notorious when a dozen workers attempted suicide in the spring of 2010. They were not the first, however. A combination of non-stop work and social isolation has driven 25 Foxconn workers to attempt suicide since 2007, including seven in May of 2010 alone. Twenty-one workers have died, the majority by jumping from dorms or work buildings.
One part of the game includes called “Suicide” users acting as net-bearing medical staff and attempt to catch workers jumping off a dormitory building.
Sadly, it’s a scene that’s not too far from the truth. Sophia Cheng wrote for Colorlines.com about the company’s horrific response to the suicides:
“After the unwanted media attention from the suicides, Foxconn installed nets to catch would-be jumpers and CEO Terry Gou solicited the help of social workers, psychologists and even Buddhist monks,” Cheng wrote.
Although dozens of companies manufacture products at Foxconn facilities, Apple is particularly unresponsive to labor groups and journalists, Cheng writes:
Hong Kong’s SACOM is a partner in the makeITfair campaign. The group conducts undercover investigations inside factories and maintains regular contact with Foxconn workers. SACOM’s Chan says that Apple, compared to other companies, is particularly unresponsive to labor groups. “Journalists contact Apple for an interview about Foxconn,” says Chan. “And every time, the response is identical. It’s just their summary from the supplier’s responsibility report. They’re not directly responding to the specific investigations from NGOs or journalists.”
The developer team behind the game, Molleindustria, say they can no longer consider “videogaming as a marginal element of our everyday lives.” They say they want to “free videogames from the ‘dictatorship of entertainment’”, and use them instead to popularize pressing social needs.
Molleindustria is “well-known for making probing titles that take on big forces like oil barons,” reports Wired Magazine. In Oiligarchy, they group created a global strategy game about depleting the planet’s resources.
Foxconn, who’s labor force in China includes an 1.2 million people, is expanding to other parts of the world. Their manufacturing plant in Brazil is ready to begin production on the third-generation Apple iPad, according to Digitimes.