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App Store devs report crackdown on images of guns and violence

Apple's list of inappropriate content just grows and grows, in-game content unaffected so far

Apple has added depictions of guns and violence to its growing, frustratingly vague list of content deemed inappropriate for the App Store.

That's based on reports from multiple developers who have been asked to alter promotional materials posted to the App Store pages for their products. According to Pocket Gamer, the first site to report on the apparent change, two developers came forward saying that games and updates were being rejected on the basis of accompanying screenshots.

Those developers - both working on "high profile shooters" - asked to remain anonymous, but there is other evidence of a shift in policy. The screenshots for Tempo, a new iOS shooter from Splash Damage, feature either pixelated guns or display clear signs that guns were removed after the fact.

Another recent example is the confusion over Orangepixel's Gunslugs 2, which was released to the App Store without complaint on January 16, only to have an update rejected two weeks later, based on a single screenshot.

In a statement issued to Kotaku, Orangepixel's Pascal Bestebroer said: "The update was rejected by Apple because of the 'violence' in the screenshots (side note: Gunslugs 2 uses pixel-art, tiny 12x12 main characters and 1x1 blood pixels).

"The idea behind it, from what I understand, is that even tho [sic] the app has a 12+ rating, they do need icons and screenshots and basically the store-page to be 4+ rated. So screenshots should not show anything that is below the 12+ rating, which is a bit hard to do for most action games."

For Orangepixel, the issue was resolved after Bestebroer posted an article to his blog expressing frustration and confusion over the matter. The update was subsequently approved without changes, and another went through without a hitch.

And yet the problem persists. Another game, Zombiens from Team Chaos, was forced to remove a Nintendo light-gun from one of its character's hands and replace it with a club - the latter, of course, being a far more deadly and threatening weapon by any measure.

And though there are games that haven't been asked to comply with the same standards - a significant problem in itself - that will do nothing to dilute the impact of these decisions. The fact that some developers are experiencing difficulties of this kind will be a clear incentive for a huge number of others to play it safer and safer. And in an environment that already stifles creative expression to a baffling extent.

Apple's apparently prudish attitude towards sexuality and nudity has been demonstrated on several occasions, most prominently in the problems faced by HappyPlayTime and Lucas Pope's Papers Please - the latter rejected for the truly absurd suggestion that it contained "pornographic" imagery. The Cupertino-based tech giant also goes weak at the knees when faced with political subject matter, as the removal of games like Auroch Digital's Endgame: Syria and Littleloud's Sweatshop HD would suggest.

And through it all, Apple has remained notoriously silent on the exact nature of its content standards, leaving developers in a state of complete uncertainty when it comes to even relatively innocuous creative decisions. The fact that guns and violence are only now being regarded as a possible cause for concern - as opposed to sex and politics - just undermines the apparent objective of making the App Store a family-friendly and accessible environment. There are few stiffer challenges to happiness than a loaded gun, after all.

Kotaku did speak to an Apple representative, by the way, but left with no statement or on-the-record information regarding App Store content standards. For now, though, it seems that the problem with guns and violence extends only as far as promotional materials.

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Latest comments (6)

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend6 years ago
I have to say the Apple review process is a joke at best, with some apps being denied on tenuous links to some vague guideline and other apps doing exactly the same thing getting through. We have had apps denied for ridiculous reasons and then resubmitted the very same app which then got through without any problem.

I would say it is more down to the mood of the particular reviewer that happens to get your app and how much money you make Apple as to the application of inappropriate content guidelines. These new rules just get added to the patchy application of all the others..... may be applied.... may not be applied.... who knows??

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 13th February 2015 10:10am

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George Williams Owner 6 years ago
I know of a few developers who have been caught up in this. However, some of the big publishers are allowed to still carry on. Apple appears to be creating a 2 tier rule system - one for the Triple A studios and one for the indies. Apple should not forget, without Indies, I doubt very much that the iPhone would have been anywhere near as successful as it was.
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Chris Hoopes Programmer & Game Designer, Ghost Crab Games6 years ago
My buddy's simple flappy-shooter got flagged for violence under these rules. Seriously look at this thing:

And where he talks about it a bit:

It's completely silly.
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Istvan Fabian Principal Engineer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe6 years ago
In the meantime, console companies do have clear guidelines, and your application won't be pulled once approved.
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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 6 years ago
this is really getting ridiculous...
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Ron Dippold Software/Firmware Engineer 6 years ago
So funny - the pixellated versions look far more 4+ inappropriate than the guns do. I want those in the game!
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