Dark side of smartphones
We, as people, are constantly hooked to our smartphones. We are either texting, clicking pictures, scrolling through social media or sending out heart reactions! But have you ever wondered about the story behind your smartphone? Under the shiny surface, behind the finesse and the polished interface, hides a product that has a troubling supply chain. Phone Story is a game that critiques its own technological platform. It underlines the truth about the misery and social costs behind the manufacture of smartphones through cartoonish graphics.
From inhuman working conditions to bitter sarcasm, it represents this process with four minigames.
Phone Story’s first minigame is in a coltan mine of Congo, Africa. Little children are mining the field under harsh weather conditions — you see them perspiring and tired. The player is dressed as a guard with a gun, who is supposed to make the exhausted children keep working by abusing them. You reach the second level only if you have screamed enough at them — it explains why the game belongs to the satire genre.
The second one sees a series of suicides taking places in Taiwanese/Chinese factories. The player has to catch workers who are throwing themselves off the roof and prevent them from committing suicide. After all, you have to make them survive another day of hard labour.
The third level is based on consumer hype about brands. It is set in a swanky smartphone store and all that the player has to do is aim at the hand of a line of customers that come and go, and slingshot the smartphones into their hands.
The fourth and the final level focusses on e-waste. The player’s job is to manage the workers salvaging components of discarded smartphones in an unsafe way. Even though I do not agree with the unsafe manner, it is the cheapest way to dispose of mountains of e-waste.
For each level, there is a timer and the player has to accomplish the target within the time frame. The game is not all that difficult and is informative in an indirect manner. The game is short and has no other innovation. It is just the same levels over and over again.
A player can quit anytime he or she wishes but there is no finish line for the people depicted in this game. The game does a good job of combining environmental awareness with economics and politics.
The political message is loud and clear — there is no freedom to take decisions. The takeaways from the game are that the players learn about the realities of the supply chain of gadgets and, at the same time, understand inequalities in economic growth and unfair working conditions.
The game leaves you with an impression of guilt. This is surprising because people regularly play video games where they kill for survival and not feel guilty. This game makes one realise how we are selectively empathetic, even in video games.
Incidentally, the game is not available on iOS because Apple banned the game on all its platforms.
Game: Phone Story by Molleindustria
Genre: Satire, minigame
Platforms: Android, Microsoft Windows, web browser