The flash game Phone Story was developed my Molleindustria to inform consumers about the “darker side” of their smart phone’s origin. Originally designed to be played on the screen of a smartphone, Phone Story is also playable on a computer. The game uses a throwback 16-bit style and relatively simple game mechanics like clicking on specific areas at the correct time, catching targets by dragging a platform, and dragging items to their corresponding target areas. The simple, arcade-esque nature of Phone Story creates a stark contrast with the actual message of the game.
While the game’s mechanics are simple, it’s moral implications complicate things a bit. With the player’s first play through, an electronic face appears and informs the player that it will be telling them the story of their smart phone while providing them with entertainment (the game itself.) Throughout each stage of the game, the face describes moral bankrupt scenarios tied to their phone in which the consumer is heavily involved. Levels in the game range from a coltan mine in the DRC, a Chinese components factory, a first-world shopping center, and finally a Pakistani salvaging station.
A twist with Phone Story is that the player assumes the role of whichever force perpetuates the amoral actions in each scenario. For example, instead of playing as a coltan minor, that player acts as a soldier who keeps slave children working in the DRC. At the Chinese factory where working conditions are so harsh that laborers frequently kill themselves, the player catches suicidal workers to prevent them from escaping the factory (in this case through death).
By requiring the player to act as the oppressor in these inhumane scenarios, the player is forced to feel responsible for said scenarios. It is a simple yet highly effective tool to foster a sense of responsibility for anyone who owns a smart phone. Phone Story continues to criticize consumers indirectly by describing the “smart phone agenda” wherein a company pays large sums of money to ensure that consumers feel unique and trendy for purchasing a product, just like everyone else who buys it. The message is simple and clear, but it still does not cross into the threshold of preachy. By revealing the game’s message through the perspective of a straight-forward computer, players do not feel like an ideal is being rammed down their throat. Rather, consumers are simply made aware of an issue that they happen to be directly involved with. Phone Story does an excellent job of balancing interest to play, and a clear message.