Update: Apple has relented and classified Liyla as a game.
When is a game not a game? According to Apple, the answer is when said game has a political message. At least that is what it is telling Liyla and the Shadows of War developer Rasheed Abueideh when it rejected the game.
In a tweet from the official Liyla Twitter account, the developer expressed confusion over the rejection. “Unfortunately Apple rejected the game as a game,they say its not game,it has a political statement.” They instead suggested that Rasheed reclassify his game as “news” or “reference”. This is a confusing but sadly not uncommon move from Apple.
Apple has long felt uncomfortable with politically charged games. While books, movies and music with overt political themes are not a problem, politically charged games seem to be a foreign concept to Apple’s censors. Back in 2011, they rejected Phone Story by Molleindustria, for another example of this dumb view from Apple.
Even this isn’t Apple censors at their most absurd. Two years ago, Apple started rejecting game submissions if they had references to guns in their videos, screenshots, or copy. Even if those games had gunplay as their primary gameplay mechanic.
One would think that after 9 years of iPhone development, Apple would have come to terms with gaming and moved passed these stupid decisions on content. Yet they continue to make dumb decision after dumb decision. You would think that they would employ someone in their app approval process who has experience at least playing games. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. Based on these kinds of decisions, it would appear that those employed in this department either hate games or have a naive idea of what games are and can be.
Games are a powerful medium, just as powerful if not more so than books, music, and movies for sharing ideas and changing minds. Sure the game community, both on the design/development side and the side of game players, is divided on whether serious or editorial games should be pursued, but the fact remains that they are something that a sizable number of people in the community want.
When game stores reject these kinds of games, they aren’t just rejecting the individual games but they are actively contributing to the negative environment that tells game developers that their medium is inferior to that of other fields. That gaming can never be a serious medium for people who have a message to share. That is not and never will be the case.
Apple really needs to get their heads out of their butts and stop making these stupid decisions. They need to let people release the games they want without fear of being marginalized or censored.