‘Trump Flushed’ blocked by Apple App Store review

UPDATE (4/13): I had a great conversation with an App Store rep today. Yes, a conversation. Yes, with a person.

I got some clarity on the rules. Political satire, in general, wasn’t the problem. Poop emojis (and a few other things) were. We talked through some potential changes to the game and while I hate to count chickens before they hatch, I think we’ve come up with a way forward. “Trump Flushed” may see the light of day. More to come soon, but big thanks to Apple for taking the time to talk it over!

Bad news on the KevCol Labs front: I had hoped to release my newest iOS game “Trump Flushed” this week, but it was rejected by the App Store review for objectionable content.

In the rejection, the Apple reviewer wrote “Your app includes content that many users would find objectionable and offensive.”

And that’s true. This is a game about the President of the United States flushing himself down a golden toilet to avoid FBI capture. Some MAGA fans will be offended, guaranteed.

See for yourself:

Case closed, right? Well, let’s check out Apple’s actual rule:

1.1.1 Defamatory, discriminatory, or mean-spirited content, including references or commentary about religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, national/ethnic origin, or other targeted groups, particularly if the app is likely to humiliate, intimidate, or place a targeted individual or group in harm’s way. Professional political satirists and humorists are generally exempt from this requirement.

(Emphasis added, source: App Store Review Guidelines)

Note the bold bit at the end. Apple “generally” excludes “professional political satirists and humorists” from the objectionable content.

My game is clearly political humor, but am I a professional political satirist?  

The last time I asked Apple, they said yes.

See, this is my third political satire game submitted to Apple. The first two, “POTUSpalooza” and “Hillary’s Email Adventure” were approved on the political satire exception. I had a longer-than-usual review times — and, yes, had to appeal — but both games were cleared and available in the App Store, after I explicitly requested the political satire exception.

That’s important: Apple’s exception is for the author, not the app.  Apple basically told me, “Yep, we think you’re a professional satirist. Good luck with the app.”

Not once, but twice.  

So I built a third app. But this time, my game was rejected even after I cited the satire exception.

I’m the same guy with the same LLC dedicating to making humorous political games.  The App Store rules seem largely unchanged (I’m going by memory here, but I don’t think the political satire exception has changed at all.)

So what’s changed? Is “Trump Flushed” simply too raw, too gross and too offensive for the App Store?

Obviously, I know Donald Trump is a polarizing figure, so I did a little research before designing the game. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t out-of-line with Apple’s political humor sensibilities. Here’s what I found:

The most popular political game in the history of the App Store (or any store) seems to be “Trump Dump.” This game features a Flappy Bird-styled obstacle course and a bald eagle defecating on an anthropomorphic pile of excrement meant to represent our 45th president.

My banned game has Trump colliding with Alt-Poo characters (poop emoji with KKK hoods — a future release would’ve added Tiki Torches.)  Sure, that may offend some fine people, but it seems to me to be far more mild than morphing the president into a living, talking (grunting?) pile of shit.

(BTW, I wholeheartedly agree with Apple approving ‘Trump Dump’ on the political humor exception. Potty humor may not be your thing, but the game reached No. 2 in the App Store, so it struck a chord with Americans.)

There are other iOS games where users can punch Donald in the face (“Trump Punch”) or games where the object is to avoid being grabbed by the self-proclaimed pussy-grabber (“Trump Escape,” which looks pretty cool, actually.)

Or if you like pooping birds and Trump, there was also “Special Delivery for Hillary,” which featured bald eagles defecating on the popular-vote winner.

There are many more examples, but that sampling makes pretty clear that the App Store does allow political satire. Some is mild, some less so.  Some is sophisticated, some less so. I’m biased, of course, but I believe “Trump Flushed” falls well within the bounds of these published games and Apple’s written guidelines.

In short …

via GIPHY

Unfortunately for me, the App Store doesn’t have to be fair. Apple owns their store, and can pick and choose what they want in it. I understand there’s no First Amendment protection here. I took a risk by assuming my third political satire game would get the same treatment as my first two — so that’s on me.

Still, I’m asking Apple to reconsider.

I love Apple products, and I love programming for iOS and tvOS.  I also appreciate the fact that the App Store is managed, and screens out malware, scams and other truly dangerous apps. But I truly don’t think political satire is dangerous, and I don’t think Apple leadership wants the App Store to be a no-go zone for legitimate political satire, humor, ideas, etc.

Hopefully, I can win over the deciders at the App Store over and release “Trump Flushed.” In my last rejection, I was offered a phone call to talk things over. I’ve sent in my contact details and will hope for the best,

But I realize the power dynamic here: Apple is the world’s biggest company, I’m a guy with a silly indie game and a blog. All I can do is make my case and hope Apple will “Think Different” on my appeal.

And, if not, well, I dunno … maybe I can start a Kickstarter to hire a developer to port the game over to Android.

Introducing MockHimUp.com

Just in time for the latest Constitutional crisis, I’ve soft-launched a new website: MockHimUp.com.

It’s a curated roundup of the best Trump-related, Resistance-friendly comedy. You know: Kimmel, SNL, Real Time and all those Daily Show alums.

I’m also hoping to find more unique, indie fare as well. Like. This. Gold.  (If you know of some  Trump vids, please share!)

Please give it a gander if you’re so inclined and let me know what you think.

 

Farewell, Candidate Clash

With Western Civilization on the verge of a Cheetoh-hued collapse, the lifespan of a goofy iPhone game isn’t the most important topic.  But for anyone playing at home, we have retired our flagship game, Candidate Clash.

A moment of silence, please.

True to its fake-news roots, our gameplay poll was dead-wrong. Hillary was ahead 58,578 to 42,764 by the end.  Ah, what might have been … (We’re guessing four years of increasingly elaborate pantsuits, endless/fruitless impeachment hearings and a whole lot of shoulder-shimmying.)

We’ll bring an archived version of the game back to the app store one of these days. First we have to tear out the Parse back-end, and make some updates.

In the meantime, we’ll always have our sweet, sweet memories…

Here’s an old-school version of the game, back during the primaries, when we still had hopes for our nation’s future:

Later, we ditched the also-rans and made it just Hillary vs. Trump.  You could also buy some lovely costumes for the nominees (an orange jumpsuit for Hillary, a clown costume for the Donald.)

This next game will be a little different, but in the same vein (as an older L.A. guy with slightly dated pop culture references, I’m obligated to describe that vein as “The Daily Show” meets “Angry Birds”.)

Farewell, Candidate Clash.  Thanks for getting me started.

What the hell is a POTUS?

My first iOS game launched about a month ago.  It has gotten pretty-good to downright-giddy feedback from everyone who’s taken a look.  But not enough people were taking a look.

Without (and sometimes with) a yuuuge media budget, there’s always the danger of a good app getting lost in the App Store.  It’s hard out there for an indie dev and all that.  But I was making discovery much harder by picking an obscure name:  POTUSpalooza.

Continue reading What the hell is a POTUS?