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Too Real: Apple bars educational game about Syrian Civil War from App Store

Auroch Digital’s Game the News project began in October. The goal is to prototype short games for mobile devices and PCs in just two weeks based on global current events. That way, people can absorb complex information through interaction rather than passive viewing or listening. The studio’s first release was Moral Kombat: Obama vs. Romney, a game that mimicked the presidential debates. Its most recent game covered a more challenging subject. Endgame Syria puts players in command of the rebels challenging Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s rule. Despite the fact that the game was built to educate people about an ongoing conflict claiming thousands of lives, Auroch Digital has run been blocked from releasing the game on iOS devices.

Apple blocked the App Store release of Endgame Syria because it violates the store’s submission guidelines. No App Store game can “solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation or any other real entity.”

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“This decision is a shame really as it makes it hard to talk about the real world,” Auroch designer Thomas Rawlings told GamesIndustry International on Tuesday, “We had hoped that Apple would be more nuanced in how they applied this rule but we got a bit worried when it had been in submission for around two weeks without a decision—we than figured that because of the controversy of using the gaming medium to cover an ongoing war meant passing the game had become an issue for them.”

Though the game won’t be sold through Apple’s App Store, it is still playable on iOS devices via browsers since it was built using HTML 5.

Games depicting real world conflicts have often caused uproar. Konami cancelled the development of shooter Six Days in Fallujah within weeks of announcing it was funding the game due to public outcry. Exploiting conflict for entertainment is typically the cause for uproar, though. Auroch Digital’s purpose is primarily educational.

It’s troubling that Apple’s submission guidelines are so myopic. After all, Apple has no problem distributing propaganda for the US military like America’s Army, a comic book app developed and distributed by the US Army, via the App Store. If the App Store isn’t a forum for serious work, how can Apple expect anyone to take it seriously?

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