An extremely hot button issue right now in the United States is the depiction of the Confederate flag. Some argue that the flag is a blatant symbol of racism and has no place in modern society, whereas others say that the flag merely represents southern pride.
Regardless of where one falls on the Confederate flag debate, the controversy has started to have an influence on retailers across the country. Brick and mortar giants such as Wal-Mart and Sears have decided to outright ban the sale of Confederate flag merchandise, joined by digital storefronts like eBay and Amazon in this decision. Apple has decided to follow suit as well, though some may consider their actions a little too drastic.
Apple has decided to abruptly remove games from the App Store that depict the Confederate flag in seemingly any capacity. This includes the Civil War strategy game series from studio HexWar Games, along with many other titles.
Apple has yet to publicly comment on the situation, but they are apparently offering a reason to the developers behind the games being removed. According to developer Andrew Mulholland of HexWar, Apple has said that the games were removed for “[including] images of the Confederate flag used in offensive and mean-spirited ways.” Apple is allowing developers to resubmit the games to the App Store once the Confederate flags have been removed.
If the games are truly using the flag in blatantly offensive ways, then it’s hard to fault Apple for their decision. However, it seems odd to punish a studio and their game for being historically accurate. After all, the Confederacy did exist and the Confederate flag existed as well, so if anything, a game rooted in history should do its best to be as accurate as possible.
This certainly isn’t the first case of game censorship and will definitely not be the last. One game series that has often been the subject of censorship is Activision’s Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty: Black Ops suffered from censorship issues especially, as the game was banned in Germany for featuring “anti-constitutional symbols” and gratuitous violence. Similarly, the game was heavily censored in Japan for depicting graphic dismemberment.
Of course, the two Black Ops examples list above are representative of government censorship, whereas this Confederate flag issue is a case of Apple censoring the content they choose to publicly display. There’s also a mountain of precedence for this in the video game industry, with a recent example being South Park: The Stick of Truth. Ubisoft’s European offices decided to remove several scenes from South Park for its PAL release, deeming them too offensive for their audience.
Ultimately, Apple is not being forced to do this by any government entity, and are totally within their rights to pull content from their digital storefront if they so choose. However, no one can deny that this is most definitely a controversial decision by Apple, and will certainly add more fuel to the debate over the morality of displaying the Confederate flag, as well as the ongoing discussion about video game censorship.