[UPDATE 3/14/14 10:45 am PT]: Hunted Cow announced that Apple has lifted the ban on its game, without demanding changes.
So there was this thing called World War II. Maybe you've heard of it?
At one point during the war — June 22, 1941, to be precise — the German dictator decided to discard his non-aggression pact with the Soviet dictator, and invade Russia. The Russians did not appreciate this; and indeed, some 20 million Russians died in the Great Patriotic War. Now some people, reasonable people, might be compelled to conclude that, during this period in history, the Germans and the Russians could be fairly characterized as "enemies."
Today, Germany and Russia are not enemies, despite a long and terrible history of conflict that concluded with half of Germany being occupied by the Soviets for 41 years. German chancellor Angela Merkel recently said some controversial things about Russian president Vladimir Putin; but that hardly makes the two nations enemies.
But history is history. And if you're going to create a game about World War II, the Americans are going to have to fight the Japanese and the Germans are going to have to fight the Russians.
If you want to install an app or a game on your Apple iPhone or iPad, you have to buy it through Apple's online App Store. Apple carefully controls what programs appear in the store, controlling for both quality and for content. Apps that concentrate on pornographic content are forbidden, for instance.
The rules Apple follows for approving new apps are convoluted, and have been applied capriciously in the past. But this week, game company Hunted Cow was shocked to discover that their new WWII game, Tank Battle: East Front 1942, was rejected by Apple. Because it portrays the Russians fighting the Germans.
Here's what Apple said, according to Hunted Cow:
We found that your app contains content or features that include people from a specific race, culture, government, corporation, or other real entity as the enemies in the context of the game, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.
Specifically, we noticed your app depicts real entity as the enemies.
Shockingly, this is not the first time some app-approval drone at Apple has confused historical verisimilitude for "hate speech." According to the Pocket Tactics website, Apple previously turned down the WWII naval combat simulator Pacific Fleet because depicting the Japanese as bad guys was supposedly racist. Another game, Endgame Syria, which depicts the ongoing civil war in that nation, was also denied, supposedly for depicting Syrians as baddies.
Meanwhile, a slew of other WWII-based games, with titles like Drive on Moscow and Panzer Corps, have been approved no problem.
It's noble to attempt to prohibit straight-up, obvious hate speech in your online store. (Although let's note that for decades, brick-and-mortar bookstores routinely carried copies of Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, not because the booksellers were racists, anti-Semites, or Fascists, but because they believed in free speech and the importance of understanding history.) But if you're going to try to ferret out hate speech, at least try to employ a modicum of basic common sense.