Article re-posted from February 24, 2015
After reading an article on Polygon regarding Apple’s appstore filtering of content, and the problems with ‘Serious Games’ (or any game with an opinion for that matter) I felt the need to express my thoughts on the issue.
The solution I think was already covered in my previous post as it removes Apple’s concerns of looking like ‘they are supporting the views of their content creators’.
Like Steam, Apple needs to distance itself from its content to ensure a democratic platform, and its content-developers can expand the inevitable nature of games, expressing their opinions with this popular medium.
It’s this ‘inevitable nature of games’ that I’d like to talk about, as a lot of people might agree with Apple’s stance on not allowing politics of offending nature on its platform, let me start out by stating that ‘offense’ is extremely relative; as the political opinion of one person can be seen as ‘offending’ by others.
The Youtube communities suffered from a consistent false-flagging whenever a video was deemed ‘offensive’, even when it was merely a political expression that others simply didn’t agree with.
The obvious answer is ‘this is freedom of speech, you don’t have to watch it’, yet these ‘flaggers’ know this, however they simply don’t want the content to exist in the first place, and thus abuse the content-flagging in an attempt to censor the outlet of a particular opinion -> this is information war… If given into, this gets dangerously close to fascism where only a particular voice can be heard. As George Orwell so elegantly put it:
‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations’
What does this have to do with games? Games are growing beyond the medium of simple ‘entertainment’; they’re so ingrained in our every-day-lives that games are now becoming a tool of expression.
While Apple does not censor (with some exceptions) books and movies, it does so with Games, which means a discriminatory-oldschool view is held on what games are.
Serious Games have little to no chance on the appstore, mainly because if they dare touch a ‘controversial political subject’ as in the example of the Polygon article, they’ll get removed, and even if they would be accepted, the flagging of ‘inappropriate content’ will scare the curators into removal.
Whether you agree with the content-creators point of view is irrelevant, this self-censorship based on the corporate wish to not have to deal with inevitable backlash is a cheap and dangerous position for us to accept.
It’s possible to promote things, but not possible to criticize things whether it be politics or religion; progression as society is seriously hampered with the increasingly popular attitude that is framed as ‘respect’ but in reality is more a stance of ‘convenience to avoid confrontation’ which is fueled by the extreme fringes of political, national or religious groups, and then broadly accepted by majorities under false these pretenses: we would never accept this behavior in the press, so why do we accept it in videogames?
The Polygon article makes a good point that the problem is that we’ve allowed corporations who have little commercial competition, to write and filter the rules on what expressions are allowed and what not, but I feel this is broadly carried by the public as well, under the above-mentioned ‘convenience to avoid offense’: we’re evolving into a people that choose to avoid problems, rather than face them, as life is ‘yolo’… remember.
Another interesting part in this, is how selective this filtering really is; as people have no issues with the critical games on corporate greed, or anti-interventionism, yet all other subjects are off-limits.
This is exactly where the front-lines are, and it’s not really Apple’s fault for deciding not to engage in journalistic ethics, yet limiting freedom-of-speech on such the world’s Nr1 platforms is, and it is a situation they can easily excuse themselves from by allowing users to filter, almost like ‘Zite‘ does with news-articles or establishing curators whom people can choose to expose themselves to. It’s time to say ‘no’ to the extreme fringes that are demanding certain content simply not exist, just because they themselves don’t like it.
We still have along way to go here, but I think it’s time we start demanding more of our freedoms and democracies to actually be represented on the platforms we spend 95% of our time on.