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Apple rejected "pornographic" Papers Please

UPDATE: Apple tells creator rejection was a misunderstanding, uncensored version of game expected to be available next week

[UPDATE]: Lucas Pope has since tweeted that Apple told him the original Papers Please rejection was a misunderstanding, and encouraged him to resubmit the game with the nudity option restored. Pope said he is working on an update to re-implement the game's nudity as the default setting, and should have it released in the next week. The original story follows below:

The iPad version of Lucas Pope's award-winning Papers Please was rejected by Apple on the grounds that it contained content deemed "pornographic" under its guidelines.

Papers Please was launched on PC last year, winning fulsome praise for its sincere treatment of difficult subject matter. Since then, it has picked up a slew of awards and nominations from august institutions like BAFTA, GDC and this very website.

In the game, the player takes the role of an immigration officer on the border of a country in the grip of political and social upheaval. Almost all of its mechanics and systems relate to checking the credentials and histories of the people attempting to enter or leave the country. The 'right' decision is rarely obvious, and the unforeseeable, often severe consequences for those passing the border make Papers Please one of the more thoughtful games of recent years.

However, the iPad version ran aground on Apple's notoriously fickle content standards, specifically due to a "search scanner" that the player can use within the game. The purpose of the scanner is to discover whether suspicious NPCs are carrying illegal items, and using it produces a relatively abstract 2D image of a naked human body - for reference, see the main image for this article.

According to Lucas Pope, the game's creator, Apple considered this content inappropriate for the App Store, on the grounds that it could be considered "pornographic."

Examples of Apple rejecting games for similar reasons are legion, but any content relating to nudity or sex seems to be a particular sore point.

Nevertheless, Pope submitted a revised version of the game that passed muster, and Papers Please will be available for the iPad from December 12.

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Latest comments (18)

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany4 years ago
Apple really needs to check their submission guidelines when an original game like this gets rejected because "pornography" while another 200 disgusting rip-off of popular IP's pass their filters without any issue.

I'm not going to talk about the difference between "nudity" and "pornography", since that is something everyone should know by now.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alfonso Sexto on 11th December 2014 8:15am

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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 4 years ago
I suppose the people that think Target not stocking GTA:V is an acceptable state of affairs are equally OK with this, I still say this is censorship regardless of not being by government, sometime private companies are more powerful than government, its a slippery slope and highlights the danger of giving retailers a monopoly like Apple have over the iOS ecosystem, if their eStore won't stock it they should allow another to provide it. I'm sick of companies making so called "moral" decisions on my behalf

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Craig Burkey on 11th December 2014 9:58am

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
Straw poll time:

Anyone here getting a woodie by looking at that screenshot? No, I thought not. Ludicrous.
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Show all comments (18)
Rafa Ferrer Localisation Manager, Red Comet Media4 years ago
@Paul- Quite the opposite, if you know the first thing about what you're dealing with -which should be expected from a company who is single-handedly shaping a whole sector of this industry.
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Weird..

Keeping thought-provoking and interesting titles out of the the iTunes store due to harmless nudity seems super backwards, considering we can continue to download games in the Grand Theft Auto series on iTunes.
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James Brightman Editor, North America, GamesIndustry.biz4 years ago
It's about as "pornographic" as a high school biology or anatomy textbook. Apple's truly being ridiculous.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
@ Craig

Not being rude, but apples/oranges when compared to GTA V.
private companies are more powerful than government, its a slippery slope and highlights the danger of giving retailers a monopoly like Apple have over the iOS ecosystem,
Yes. But Apple built their monopoly from the ground-up - it was ever thus (though in the distant past, it was less "crazy", shall we say?). Whereas Target/Kmart are two retailers in a whole country of them, and are thus not exerting the same monopolistic pressures that Apple do.

To take a different argument to what I've read so far, how about pubs/devs stop buying into Apple's eco-system? Sure, it's where the big mobile bucks are, but how about turning around and saying "No, we will not release on iOS. If people want to play our game, play it on Steam, or Android"? It is - in all likelihood - the only way in which Apple will change their policies.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development4 years ago
If people want to play our game, play it on Steam, or Android"? It is - in all likelihood - the only way in which Apple will change their policies.
Only if it happens in droves, which it will not without a unified effort.
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Art C. Jones Writer / Blogger 4 years ago
I'd go the other direction with the Straw Poll.
Is that image doing anything that a similar, less evocative image could do?
Honestly, no it's not. So why have it?

We have a tendency to ask "What's the harm?" in situations like these, and I love to flip the question to "What's the good?" Does it need what it is doing to be good, or are we pushing something (everyone is!)
;)
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Robert Aiking Product Manager, InnoGames4 years ago
It's not like Apple's getting off on rejecting nudity because of their morals... it's because of the morals of all the people who could be expected to send in complaints if they found naked-ish pictures in their iPad apps. Us readers on a video games industry site skew fairly liberally compared to the average.

The reality doesn't really matter: the headlines write themselves for anyone looking to cash in on a bit of controversy.
"iPad's Perverse privacy invasion simulator features nudity of helpless immigrants!
Read more about how Apple is corrupting our nation's youth on page 2!"
That's just not a fight (or risk of a fight) I think they're interested in fighting, and can definitely sympathize.
Can we expect Apple to pioneer a broader acceptance of nudity (in North America)? Nah.

On a side note, Papers Please is a great game, and I'm sure it'll be amazing to play on an iPad.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Robert Aiking on 11th December 2014 9:39pm

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
Is that image doing anything that a similar, less evocative image could do?
It's a fair technique to flip a point like that to examine it. But in this case it doesn't work, because: How can an image be less evocative than that? :)

I had to check the name on the passport to figure out of they were breasts or pecs.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 4 years ago
Can't wait to play this on hand held and this isn't a major change, but real voices are being punished here, great works by artists like Yoot Saito and Jason Rohrer are all to often completely silenced. Gaming is to important to limit platforms this way, Apple continue to restrict handheld gaming to family friendly 80s era Nintendo content.

Apple need to take gaming seriously or open up the platform and let other people do it for them.

This is the stuff Gamers should get angry about.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 11th December 2014 11:48pm

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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises4 years ago
This is why iOS sucks as a gaming platform. They rate everything they sell, why not filter out games with nudity or violence or pixel or art or whatever the user doesn't want to see.

Or is turning on some child locks too hard for users of Apple products?
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 4 years ago
My understanding is that they're using people in India, who, like their phone counterparts have a manual they're terrified to deviate from lest they get fired for one of the hundred people behind them. So, they see a boobie and flag it.

There's a reason why people are pulling out of India for these jobs, this lack of independent thought is actually costing them more than they save
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
Apple have now issued an apology for this "mistake" and are waiting on the developer to submit a new build complete with gratuitous nudity.
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Christopher Garratty Associate Counsel, Activision Blizzard4 years ago
I actually prefer to have nudity "off" as it is easier to ID someone as female or not based on whether they are wearing a bra. As Paul points out, telling gender from the nude pic is trickier. :)
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Russ Cogman Senior Game Artist, Serious Games International4 years ago
I didn't know this was on iPad, yet. Apple being jerks has helped him out because I'll be getting it now.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Russ Cogman on 15th December 2014 4:51pm

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I would not have known about this game without this article. Which was done because Apple rejected it first.

Great game. Strong dystopia, very depressing. You seldom see games like this. This makes you believe games can be more than entertainment.
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