It should come as no surprise that Apple's tight approval process allowed a game depicting Foxconn working conditions and the increasing number of suicides to appear on the App Store for just four days. What is surprising is that the app actually went live on Apple's platform in the first place, thus proving that -- as we've seen time and time again -- the approval process isn't exactly perfect.
According to the product description, Phone Story is a game for iOS and Android-based devices that "attempts to provoke a critical reflection on its own technological platform. 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. Phone Story represents this process with four educational games (Coltan, Suicides, Obsolescence and eWaste) 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."
Apple claims that the app was pulled because it violated four rules for iOS app creation: depictions of child abuse (code 15.2), objectionable or crude content (16.1) and promises to turn over a portion of the money to charity (21.1 and 21.2). According to the developer, 70-percent of the app revenue will pay the bills and salaries. The other 30-percent will supposedly be redirected to organizations that are fighting corporate abuses. Festivals and art institutions that are interested in exhibiting the game are asked to contribute to the cause instead of paying artist fees.
In addition to the violations, the app probably made the iPhone and iPad developer extremely uncomfortable given that Foxconn is China's largest private employer, encompassing a labor force of around 1.2 million people that are partially responsible for building Apple's popular gadgets. Twenty-five workers have attempted suicide since 2007, twenty-one of which have died mostly by jumping off work buildings or dorm rooftops.
To reflect these numbers, players in Phone Story's "Suicides" mini-game take the role of a net-bearing medical staff employee who is attempting to catch workers as they throw themselves off the roof. This mirrors Foxconn's real-world attempt to catch suicide jumpers by installing nets around the building. CEO Terry Gou has even reached out to social workers, psychologists and Buddhist monks to help curb the number of deaths. There were fourteen successful attempts in 2010 alone, and so far three have managed to leap to their death in 2011.
Interested consumers who missed the iOS app when it was briefly available on Apple's App Store can download the Android version here via the Android Market. The app is actually difficult to find in the actual Market, but can be located by searching for the developer, "Molleindustria" instead of the app's title.
*Hat tip goes to user Pyree. Thanks!