It is not very often that a game boasts that it is “Banned from the App Store”, but that is just the case with Phone Story, a game produced by the group molleindustria. The main focus of Phone Story is not entertainment, but education, and delivers its message through the mechanics of playing a game. That message is the often hidden and reprehensible origin of your smart phone, the effect that it has on people and the environment, both to get it into your hands, and after it reaches the point of its planned obsolescence.
Phone Story is a game for smartphone 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 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.
Keep Phone Story on your device as a reminder of your impact. All of the revenues raised go directly to workers’ organizations and other non-profits that are working to stop the horrors represented in the game.
Below is a video of the game play, and you can see very quickly why Apple would not want this in the App Store.
The electronics manufacturing industry in general is not known for its transparency, and many try and obscure the environmental and human toll that their products put on the world. Phone Story is definitely a dramatic take on the situation (especially the catching of jumping factory workers), but it does serve to get its message across, and it is interesting that they view the game as more of an artefact, to be kept on your phone not to play, but to serve as a reminder of the moral implications of owning the object. Guilt? There’s an App for that.