• Apple rejects educational game about slavery for being "offensive"
07.03.14

Apple rejects educational game about slavery for being "offensive"

Apple has rejected yet another game from being distributed on its App Store but this time it might have been right in its judgment. It was a Dutch educational game aimed at children about slavery called Weg naar Vrijheid (Road to Freedom) that got the red mark this time.

The game takes place in 1723 and has you play through the life of a slave. You can either be Jacob or Amba, and it starts with you being taken to Elmina Castle in Ghana to be bought by a rich white man. From there, you go to work on a sugar plantation in Suriname.

Protestors claimed that this was not historically accurate and offensive. 

A fork appears in the narrative as you can choose to escape the plantation and live among a village of rebels, or you can remain as a slave. Either path involves playing a series of mini-games, such as cutting down sugar cane and harvesting fields. No matter what scenario you choose, the slave will get married, have children and live a long life.

According to Dutch newspaper Parool, Apple's reasoning for disallowing it was its "contents are slanderous and insulting and can count on complaints from a large group of people."

Well, whether you agree with them or not, it turns out that Apple was right on the mark. Road to Freedom caused uproar among the Afro-Surinamese community in the Netherlands last Friday. The slavery educational website Slavernij & Jij (Slavery & You), where the game was hosted since Feburary this year, was flooded with angry responses. Much of the upset seems to have been aimed at one particular scene in the game during which the slave is whipped by a black slave driver at the plantation for being disobedient. Protestors claimed that this was not historically accurate and offensive.

"But we have remained faithful to the historical reality," Martijn Reintjes of Dutch developer Pepergroen told Parool. He said the scene in question was historically accurate and "that was simply the practice."

Nevertheless, the reactions were so intense and emotionally charged that the Dutch Institute for Slavery and Heritage (NiNsee) has ordered for the game to be pulled from the web. NiNsee is also responsible for Road to Freedom's creation, as it commissioned Pepergroen to develop it over six months, paying the studio with Amsterdam city council subsidies.

The reason the council paid for the game is because it was to be part of the remembrance events and educational efforts in the Netherlands—which included exhibitions, theater performances, and documentary screenings—that have been ongoing since the start of 2013. It's all part of celebrating the passing of 150 years since slavery was abolished in the then-Dutch colonies of Suriname and the Dutch Antilles.

NiNsee is currently in talks with those upset about Road to Freedom, as well as Pepergroen, to reach a solution so that the game may still be part of the events.