Why Does Apple Ban Political Games?

The Supreme Court thinks games are protected speech. But America’s most powerful company doesn’t.

This week, Apple banned the game Sweatshop HD from their app store.

The game puts you in the role of a manager in charge of “hiring, firing, and motivating an underpaid workforce to meet dangerous manufacturing demands.”

Apple told the game’s creator, Simon Parkin, that Sweatshop HD made them “uncomfortable.”


This isn’t the first time that Apple has banned a game for having politics. In January, Apple rejected Endgame: Syria, a strategy game about the Syrian uprising.

(Today, Apple allowed the publication of a censored version of the game called Endgame: Eurasia)

It’s on the App Store here.

In 2011, Apple banned a game by the award-winning studio Molleindustria. It was called Phone Story, and it was about the production of smart phones.

Also in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that the law could not ban the sale of violent games to minors. The reason, according to Justice Antonin Scalia? “Like books, plays and movies, video games communicate ideas.” Games are protected speech.

Charles Rex Arbogast, File / AP

Here are some books and movies you can buy over iTunes:

The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

(It’s about Americans working in meatpacking sweatshops).

The Syrian Rebellion, by Fouad Ajami

(It’s about the Syrian rebellion).

Last Train Home

(It’s a documentary about Chinese people who work in near-sweatshop conditions in garment factories).

So here’s the question: What makes games any different to Apple?

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Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
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