App Store Rejection of the Week: ‘Papers Please’

Phill Cameron, writing for Gamasutra:

Papers Please launched last year to both critical and commercial success, and placed you in the role of a border inspector working for a totalitarian regime. The demands on exactly what is required for entry into your country grow over the course of the game, until you implement a full body scanner to check for explosives and contraband.

It’s this scanner that Apple has deemed to be “pornographic content,” according to Lucas Pope, the games developer.

So here’s an App Store rejection that many disagree with, but which is easy to understand from Apple’s perspective. Apple tends to err on the side of running the App Store with Disney-esque family values. The company places inordinate value in its family-friendly reputation.


  • Pornography usually involves nudity, but nudity is frequently not pornographic. Pornography is famously difficult to define, but I think one aspect almost everyone would agree with is that pornography is intended to create sexual arousal. I haven’t played Papers Please, but by all accounts, it’s a serious game attempting to create a dystopian police state. The nudity seems to be oppressive and invasive, not pornographic.

  • This case highlights the way Apple holds games (and apps in general) to a different standard than other iTunes content. Movies, music, and books are not held to the same PG-13-ish standards that apps are. I can buy A Clockwork Orange from iTunes, but if I made a game that showed the exact same things that are depicted in that film, it’d have little chance of being approved. Conversely, an R-rated movie version of Papers Please could depict this scene without a hitch when it comes to iTunes.

Update, 13 December: Developer Lucas Pope says Apple has asked him to resubmit the app with the nudity intact.

Thursday, 11 December 2014