Apple rejects iPhone game Smuggle Truck depicting immigrant smuggling

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Apple has rejected Smuggle Truck, an iPhone and iPad game in which players drive a truck packed with immigrants across a desert border and through underground tunnels.

In the game, immigrants can be hurled out of the truck and die as the vehicle navigates obstacles such as ramps, hills and explosives.

Although Apple rejected the Smuggle Truck game for its App Store, the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant did approve a less controversial version of the game called Snuggle Truck to be sold for iOS devices.

Snuggle Truck is essentially the same game, but with stuffed animals taking the place of immigrants. Also, rather than trying to move immigrants across a boarder, the objective of Snuggle Truck is to get the animals into a zoo where they’ll be taken care of.


Both versions of the game were developed by Owlchemy Labs, a Boston start-up, that told the Associated Press its immigrant-themed game was rejected by Apple about three weeks ago for ‘content-related’ reasons. The game makers are selling Smuggle Truck on their own as a computer game for both Macs and PCs.

In a statement on Owlchemy’s website, the company said Smuggle Truck was built as an ‘interactive satire’ to criticize an immigration system ‘largely avoided in popular media, especially video games.’

The game’s inspiration came from the developers’ friends who have attempted to immigrate to the U.S., Owlchemy said.

‘This idea originated as a result of learning that the process of legal immigration was not as straightforward as we had assumed,’ the company said. ‘As we lived through a painful 12 months of our friend struggling through the absurd legal minefield that surrounds U.S. immigration, we felt that we should create a game that touches on the issue. The comment was thrown around that ‘it’s so tough to legally immigrate to the U.S., it’s almost easier to smuggle yourself over the border,’ and thus Smuggle Truck was born.’

A prototype of the game was built for the iPhone in two days by Owlchemy’s founders, Alan Schwartz and Yilmaz Kiymaz, the statement said.

‘Throughout the creation of the game, we maintained a meticulous eye to avoid depicting a specific stereotype or location, instead opting to generalize smuggling to its most basic abstract form,’ Owlchemy said. ‘Through user testing and feedback from fellow developers and even random strangers, we worked to maintain a light and humorous representation of a subject that is normally avoided.

‘With a satirical angle on a real issue, we want to create a game that is fun to play but also stirs up discussion on ways to improve the problematic immigration system in the United States.’


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles