You Can't Club Seals at Apple's App Store, But ...

A young harp seal rests on the ice floes during the annual East Coast seal hunt in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence around Quebec's Iles de la Madeleine, Wednesday, March 25, 2009
AP/Canadian Press, Andrew Vaughan

A software engineer in Newfoundland who designed a seal hunt video game for the App Store says Apple rejected his program because it contained objectionable content.

But the rejection left Matt Smyth confused. His game, iSealClub, does allow players to use cartoon clubs to hunt cartoon seals. Yet Smyth, who says the game uses satirical graphics - that is, there is no on-screen blood and gore - claims that there are worse offenders on the App Store.

On his blog, Smyth complained that Apple imposed its own sense of morality because it disagrees with the seal hunt concept. Explaining how the game works, he said:

"So I decided to develop a game based on the seal hunt (with a club). You play a seal hunter armed with a club against an unlimited number of seals. Tilting the device in the desired direction moves the club around the screen, and making a flicking motion causes the club to hit a seal or the ground. I tired(sic) to keep the game light-hearted as possible with no blood, or clubbing baby seals. Well... you can try and club the baby seals, but you lose points and they just take off really fast."

In the rejection letter reposted by Smyth, Apple included the boilerplate statement summing up its official policy:

"Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple's reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory."

However, Smyth contended that Apple was not being consistent. He said he found other games on Apple's App Store also depicting cyber-violence. His list included the likes of Turkey Hunt, iHunt, Deer Hunter 3D, iFishing, Ace Hunter, iHunt 3D, Big Buck Hunter, 3D Hunting, Trophy Hunt, Pocket God, iiMob, iMobsters and Grand Theft Auto.

Comparing his game's content to the others, Smyth said "I can't help but think that Apple has taken a less then neutral position on the topic of the Seal Hunt."

"If Apple is truly against the seal hunt, I respect that," he continued. "I wouldn't kill an animal (non-virtual of course) myself. But... I don't respect Apple for restricting content based these views(when the other side is still socially acceptable). I can understand not allowing games with the cold blooded murder of police officers..... oh wait.... They do.. never mind. I once pictured Apple as the shining example of creative innovation. A company run by man ahead of his time, a visionary who said his LSD trip was one of the two or three most important things he has done in his life. Oh well, maybe its time I start slowly backing of Apple's lawn."
Here's a brief YouTube video taken of ISealClub:

An Apple spokesman did not immediately respond for comment.

  • Charles Cooper On Twitter»

    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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