It’s rare that the real world crosses into the gaming world, but the results are usually problematic when it does. That’s the case today as a game about a relatively unknown string of islands has been pulled from the App Store.
China Daily reports that Chinese game developer Shenzhen ZQGame Network Co had their game, Defend the Diaoyu Islands, pulled from the App Store. The developer was given no explanation as to why the game was removed from the store, but claim they are actively working to have it reinstated.
Why would a game that sounds pretty harmless cause so much trouble? It could be due to the fact that it’s closely tied to a real conflict between China and Japan over the islands featured in the game. To represent said conflict, the game has the player defending the islands from overt Japanese stereotypes like sumo wrestlers and ninja.
Speaking to China Daily, a consultant for Analysys International said that these kind of games are called “Red Games.” They gain some notoriety for a bit, but ultimately are forgotten. The removal of the game from the App Store will definitely prevent it from being forgotten now.
So what’s the big deal with these islands anyway? According to Bloomberg, the islands are the center of a fight between China and Japan over who has sovereignty over the land. Of course, nobody would care if it was just a bunch of islands, but they are a major source of oil fields and natural gas. The game makes an obvious political statement about China’s right to the islands.
The overt political overtones could be why it was removed as Apple’s terms of service prevent games that target a specific race, culture, government or corporation from being released on the App Store. I’m sure Apple would let the game back on if they removed the overt references to Japanese culture from the game. Even better, they should let people make political statements with games. If the medium is ever going to mature, we should allow games to challenge how we think about real world events just as films and books do.