iOS Game Banned by Apple after North Korean Propaganda Move


Apple Bans Joyful Executions a Game That Satirises North Korea

With games being something that most people want to try and use their tablet to do so without the worries of a console. But when it comes to us in the USA do we have 1st amendment rights when we create a game? Will it be a bad thing if we created a game that parodies a country and their ways? Is it just wrong to do so? Well, Norwegian Studio 8-Bit Underpants has created a game that Apple has taken down from their App Store.

Joyful Executions, is a turn-based survival title is pitched as “a parody game on North Korean propaganda for children and a satire on our willingness to accept morally questionable acts through gamification”, and puts players in charge of a firing squad tasked with killing protesters on the streets.

8-Bit Underpants’ Fredrik Nordstrom tells Pocket Gamer that the game was rejected by Apple after a month within its approval process due to flouting paragraph 16.1 of its App Store guidelines: “Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected.” The game may also have come up against a separate clause in Apple’s guidelines, 15.3: “‘Enemies’ within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity,” it explains. Even with satirical intent, seemingly.

Joyful Executions has been released for Android tablets, with an Android smartphone version to follow. “It’s Apple’s right to decide what they want and don’t want for whatever reason they fancy. However, as a developer, I would appreciate a more consequent and traceable implementation of their guidelines,” says Nordstrom.

Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines are clear in some respects about its desire for satire to be channeled into forms of content other than games, but leave room for interpretation, or confusion, in other areas. “We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical App,” explains the document. “We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, ‘I’ll know it when I see it’. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.”

It’s likely that Fredrik Nordstrom was well aware of the line-crossing potential of Joyful Executions before submitting it for approval, and for a developer wanting to raise awareness of a particular conflict or issue, an Apple ban can arguably be as useful as sailing through the approval process. Even so, Apple’s continued belief that games aren’t as worthy a vehicle for satire as books or songs means we’re likely to see more approval controversies in the future.

The Joyful Executions website gives more background on why the game is being released, and its satirical intent regarding the North Korean regime, at a time of heightened sensitivity in the region. “It’s important that we’re not scared by North Korean threats and that we don’t take them seriously. Because if we do, we’re cementing the legitimacy of the regime with our respect,” explains the site, which also hints at an ambition to turn a spotlight onto the Western games industry. “I didn’t just want to make a funny parody of weird propaganda. I wanted to see if my game could be a little more than that. And so I tried my take on a topic that always baffled me with video games; how disturbingly easy we’re manipulated by morally questionable ultra-violence in video games.”

I think a company has the right to make a game based on rumors or facts that we all see in the news. But again, my views are different than others so even though I think I’m right others will see that I’m wrong in my thoughts. But again what I think is wrong is thought of as right in another mind. So, it is then left up to the individual and what they think and not what someone else thinks is right or wrong. I would say a different title for the game would be better “Joyful Executions” there really is no joy in killing another, at least again this is my thought.

Forrest L. Rawls


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