Looks like the App Store censors have struck again.
A recent game has come before the App Store in hopes of making its way to your touch screen, but was shot to the blacklist instead. Phone Story is an “educational” game that teaches you about, well, how bad your smart phone is. The game takes you first to the devastating mineral mines where workers are subjected to torment to get the raw materials needed to create your precious iPhone. It extends the lesson plan to teach about how these minerals are traded and then pushed on to the international market. It goes into how this how it is taken across borders, even from areas where devastating conflicts are taking place such as in the Congo. This takes these minerals all the way to the refiners and electronic companies, which seem to hide from the fact that they are dealing with blood minerals that are being put together by child laborers at slave wages.
For more fun it takes you into a section on suicide that looks at the rate of suicide from the exploited Chinese factory workers who have thirty-six hour forced work binges without dignity. This takes place because of what are called “special economic zones” where the rights for workers are gone and the free market has become the dominant ideology.
The obsolescence of the devices themselves is one of the main targets, especially since this is such a marked trait of devices like the iPhone and iPad. Here there is no permanence of device as the planned obsolescence requires a new purchase after a set amount of time and the yearly release creates the feeling that your current model is now inadequate. The software and features move quickly beyond your several hundred dollar smart phone, literally leaving older iPhone models nearly unusable as the iOS updates will not even be available to them.
This model of planned obsolescence plays into their next section on eWaste, which is becoming one of the most prolific forms of toxic dumping. Developing nations, often the same ones where the minerals are harvested from and workers shut into technology sweat shops are receiving the brunt end of the waste from our production and consumption of fashionable gadgets. According to the game’s developers, between 50-80% of this waste is shipped out of our country so we do not have to directly confront the result of our own indulgence.
Is it any wonder why the App Store rejected it?
The game itself is becoming part of a new trend for social commentary in the videogame model; so don’t expect it to out compete Halo anytime soon. Instead of operating simply for fun on your touch screen, it is intended to be a no-so-subtle commentary on this new industry that has seemed to bypass the conscious of the public. The developers, who have shown how the financial model for game sales work, are dedicating any money received from the game to go directly to labor organizations and other groups that are working actively to stop the assault that is happening on the international working poor and environment that is part of getting our fun phone to the shelves. This marks a major step for the consciousness about these new products, and the way to develop resistance movements around the issue. The App Store has never been an open forum, but publicity around its rejection may do even more to help foster discontent with how these products are manufactured.