Opinion: Apple has to stop with the censoring, double standards, and crippling of art in the App Store

Welcome to the gun show

Opinion: Apple has to stop with the censoring, double standards, and crippling of art in the App Store
| App Store Analysis

Let me start by saying this: I understand why Apple wants to protect children from seeing violent, sexualised, or drug-related imagery - I think we're all in agreement there.

What I don't agree with is the lengths that Apple has gone to to protect this minority of players. A full-scale extreme censorship of the App Store.

We've seen this before when smoking was banned in films and television in certain countries. It makes sense to some extent because children are, by nature, impressionable but isn't it sweeping the issue under a rug rather than tackling it?

Surely a better method would have been to put an age restriction in place whereby you won't see the apps at all if you're under the age rating. The system is already in place, so why isn't it being utilised?

Alternatively, there could be parental control options in place so parents can go in and block by age, genre, type of app etc. and better curate the App Store to suit the age of their child.

Whatever the method, there has to be a better way than lazily censoring all content that's slightly offensive or mature like some extremist right-wing dictator.

Double-barrel standards

However, Apple does often shoot itself in the foot and the most recent example of this was seen during the last two weeks when it started a campaign to reinforce the rule that all App Store icons and screenshots must be friendly to ages 4+.

That means no guns, no boobs, and certainly no rock-and-roll.

The developers behind high-profile games such as Tempo (given the Editor's Choice push, no less), Gunslugs 2, and Into the Dead were contacted by Apple and told that their games would be rejected if they didn't remove all violent imagery from the App Store icons and screenshots. No mean feat.

It's ridiculous when you consider the fact that these games, which are violent by nature, are actually allowed to exist in the App Store but not if they promote the fact that they're violent by nature.

Which could lead to parents thinking these games are suitable for their kids, but end up downloading games packed with violence.

On top of that, plenty of games were allowed through completely uncensored, despite displaying equally violent imagery. Gang Nations is a prime example of this, which has screenshots of cartoon thuggish characters holding baseball bats and pointing guns at each other.

Despite it being utterly ludicrous, if this is the route that Apple is determined to take then it has to at least be consistent and not allow its reputation to be tarnished with blatant double standards.

Art depicts life

Possibly the most disappointing, or disheartening, of all of Apple's censorship follies is its insistence on apps and games not representing real life conflicts and issues.

A classic example of this was with a game called Smuggle Truck which, in its original form, had you driving a group of Mexican immigrants across the US border.

Alternatively, you could go the official route and try waiting in line for a Green card with the only catch being that you'll be waiting forever.

It's a lovely satire of the broken US immigration system.

Smuggle Truck became Snuggle Truck and now sees you driving a pick-up truck full of cute and furry animals on the way to the zoo. Just make sure you drive carefully or they'll fling out of the back and die a horrible death.

Not quite the same thing, then.

Another example is the mobile board game, Endgame: Eurasia, which was originally titled Endgame: Syria and tackled the issue of the way in Syria delicately and with sensitivity.

It was an excellent means for those with little knowledge to be educated about the conflict which has affected the lives of many. I don't see the harm in that.

Instead, Little Dictator, which sees you play as Kim Jong-Un riding a rocket backwards through other, larger rockets clearly supplied by China avoids censorship.

There are those double standards again.