Phone Story

I noticed that a few people had brought up games by Molleindustria in the blog. So, I decided to take a look at the website. All games on this site capitalize on the “turnover” of the gaming industry in recent years. Trying to reach the wide audience that plays videogames, Molleindustria creates games that express pressing social needs and express relevant ideology circulating in the world today. The game I chose to play was called Phone Story. Knowing the background of the company was critical when playing this game, as it is definitely not your average online gaming experience.

In Phone Story, the player follows the journey of a cell phone across the world and joins the supply chain in which the phones are created. Within the game are four scenes. In the first, the player is taken through the Congo and participates in coltan extraction. Second comes China, where the player is exposed to the effects of outsourced labor. Third, western consumerism is revealed as the player sees the rush to acquire gadgets. In the final scene, the player is taken to Pakistan and sees electronic waste dumps and the harm it does to human health and the environment.

As a game strictly for iPhone and Android platforms, the mechanics are all based on touch. In level one, the player directs a Congo officer up and down the coltan field by sliding their finger. The officer must move quickly to prevent workers from resting. In level two, the player becomes a part of the hospital team trying to catch falling workers on a stretcher as they dive out of the building to escape abuse and overtime. In the third level, people run across the street as the player, an electronic store worker, tosses new products to them. Finally, level four begins. In this level the player must drag old electronic products into burners where the product is destroyed and fumes are emitted into the air.

This game makes a strong statement about the dark side of smart phone production. It’s basic game design and simple graphics are intended to give the message the most spotlight. Small sound effects are instilled throughout the game as well. These include, wimpers from the coltan workers, screams from the Chinese suicides, and bells as people catch gadgets. Following the simple nature of the game, the sounds are just adding to the negative emotions the player experiences in dealing with the game’s message.

Without being overwhelmed by confusing rules within the game play, I think Phone Story players can clearly see the detrimental effects of smart phone production. I find it ironic that the game itself is only playable through a smart phone platform. This was obviously intended by the company to further the message it is trying to send.

One interesting thing that I discovered by doing some research on the game is that it was recently removed from the Apple App Store. Perhaps because Apple has recently been criticized for taking part in some of these terrifying practices?

Overall, I think that this is a very interesting take on a game. As seen through my other post this week, I am really interested in how companies reveal larger truths about society using games as their mode of communication. No longer are games only for entertainment. In the new digital world, companies are benefitting from the power of video games to instill important social and political messages. This is something we have discussed in class a few times. My only argument against these games is that it takes some research to find them. These games need to gain more publicity in order to truly make an impact.

Here’s a slideshow of all four scenes in the game…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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3 comments
  1. jrtuc said:

    I could not agree more with the statement this game is trying to make against the smartphone industry. In general, technology has put many industries out of business due to convenience, but I find it crazy what smart phones have done to the gaming industry. Video Games used to be for down time, for moms to get a break from their kids. I agree with your statement that this game cannot have as much impact to relay its message to many people since many of us have never even heard of the game. However, I definitely think people should play this game to understand what Smart Phones have done to the industry.

  2. aishamalek said:

    The fact that that the Apple AppStore banned this game is really saying something. It’s likely that its simply because of its negative portrayal of Apple in the level with the man working at the store with the pear logo, but I wonder if Apple would have banned it if their company wasn’t addressed so directly. I wonder how much smartphone corporations care about this issue, and if they purposefully try to hide these realities from their consumers.
    What I think makes this game effective was its use of the computer voice-over to narrate information about all of the gruesome things that happen because of the smartphone industry, while also providing a fun and addicting game. I was interested in all the facts and wanted to get through all the levels just to be more educated on this topic.
    I find it incredibly ironic that this game is directed toward use on smartphones. I think that in this way it makes the player feel somewhat responsible. My only concern is that it made me feel somewhat hopeless, as I felt that it didn’t really make me feel like there was a way I could solve the problem

  3. springsteen1 said:

    Good points about the Apple store, removal, and points of moderation (or moderating). I think to delve further, it’s interesting to note what connotates removal from either the Apple store or other stores or distribution channels in general. How are we currently rating games? Has this become more lenient or less over the last generation?

    So I would say that negative portrayal of Apple is absolutely not warranted for removal, and yes, I would agree with you on that. There are things, however, that do warrant it, and we make a lot less mention of those. Interesting all around.

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