Auroch Digital’s Game the News project hit a roadblock earlier this week when Apple rejected its most recent game, Endgame: Syria, from inclusion in the App Store. Since Endgame: Syria depicts the ongoing conflict between Syrian rebels in their struggle to overthrow Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, it violates the App Store rule that no game can “solely target a specific race, culture, a real government, or corporation or any other real entity.” Since al-Assad is still recognized as the ruler of Syria regardless of being accused of massacring his own people, games released on the App Store can’t comment on him, his government, or the conflict demolishing that country.
Digital Trends’ spoke with Auroch Digital’s Tomas Rawlings earlier this week to gain some insight into the Game the News project and Endgame: Syria.
While Rawlings doesn’t believe that Apple specifically targeted Endgame: Syria, he does believe the game’s blocking highlights problems with Apple’s curating of the App Store.
“[We] don’t feel we were singled out but I think it is right to question why some games get though and others don’t,” says Rawlings, “ I think by making games about real world events we are subject to more scrutiny than if we just did a game about annoyed avians.”
Tellingly, Endgame: Syria had no problem getting placement in the Android Market.
“There have been no problems with Android—the game is on Google Play and doing well. Apple’s guidelines mean that making games about controversial issues and themes is harder work as a result. However looking at our data for the platforms that people use to play Endgame: Syria, as they also run in HTML5, there is no shortage of people playing them on iOS devices, just not via the App Store.”
Auroch’s experience with Apple hasn’t changed the Game the News project’s goals according to Rawlings. The team will still go about making “short playable experiences that make you smile or think,” and in a very short amount of time. (Endgame: Syria was made in approximately two weeks according to Rawlings, but other games like one make about the Uzbek cotton industry, have been finished in about a day and a half.)
It will, however, alter how Auroch engages with Apple. “[This experience] will change our production process and the types of games we submit to Apple,” says Rawlings.
Apple’s App Store has proven to be fertile ground for creative expression, but its real power as a gaming platform will always be limited if it blocks games like Endgame: Syria.