If you’ve been watching the news recently, you’ll know of the huge debate in the U.S over the role of the Confederate flag in contemporary America. Many see it as a reminder of the many pre-Civil War injustices while others see it simply as a way to honor the soldiers who died for the Confederacy. Many large US companies, including Walmart and Amazon, have already banned the sale of any Confederate flag merchandise as a reaction to the recent events. Now, it appears that Apple has decided to join them by pulling many Civil War wargames from the App Store. As of the writing of this story, games like Ultimate General: Gettysburg and all the Hunted Cow Civil War games are nowhere to be found. Apple is famous for reaching for the axe rather than the scalpel when it comes to political issues (like rejecting Hunted Cow’s Tank Battle 1942 for depicting Germans and Russians as enemies), so this move doesn’t come as a great surprise.
Apple’s Tim Cook has recently spoke against displaying the Confederate flag, so I suppose this development was to be expected. However, censoring historical games (if that is indeed the reason why the games have been pulled) is always very tricky because those games don’t glorify or promote a cause but, rather, represent historical events using the symbols and insignia of the period. Still, I can also see the political and social pressures mounting at the moment, which makes pulling the games the “safest" action for Apple. What do you think? If Apple has indeed pulled the games for displaying the Confederate flag, is Apple’s action justified, or was there another way to eradicate racism and remove the symbols and words that feed it, as Tim Cook put it?
Update: It’s looking like Apple has pulled everything from the App Store that features a Confederate flag, regardless of context. The reasoning Apple is sending developers is “…because it includes images of the confederate flag used in offensive and mean-spirited ways." We just spoke with Andrew from HexWar Games, who have released many historical strategy games. He insists, “We’re in no way sympathetic to the use of the flag in an offensive way, we used it purely because historically that was the flag that was used at the time."
HexWar Games plans on attempting to re-submit their games using the lesser-known 1861 version of the Confederate flag. But, who knows if that will even be approved. No one is sure yet if Apple is banning all mention of the Confederacy, or just the specific image of the flag which has since become such a hot button issue in the USA.
We accept Apple’s decision and understand that this is a sensitive issue for the American Nation. We wanted our game to be the most accurate, historical, playable reference of the Battle of Gettysburg. All historical commanders, unit composition and weaponry, key geographical locations to the smallest streams or farms are recreated in our game’s battlefield.
We receive a lot of letters of gratitude from American teachers who use our game in history curriculum to let kids experience one of the most important battles in American history from the Commander’s perspective.
Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List" did not try to amend his movie to look more comfortable. The historical “Gettysburg" movie (1993) is still on iTunes. We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. True stories are more important to us than money.
Therefore we are not going to amend the game’s content and Ultimate General: Gettysburg will no longer be available on AppStore. We really hope that Apple’s decision will achieve the desired results. We can’t change history, but we can change the future.
Ultimate General: Gettysburg wasn’t alone in focusing on tasteful, historical accuracy. The vast majority of the Civil War strategy games I’ve played on my iPad put great emphasis on focusing on the historical significance of the battles, units, locations, and generals. We’ve also heard that these types of games have been used as teaching tools, making their removal from the App Store feel that much more reactionary.
Update 3: We now have an official Apple statement regarding the removal of the games. Specifically, Apple states that “we have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines." Sources close to the company say that it’s working with the developers affected by the flag ban to get the issue resolved and get the games back on the App Store. However, the developers will have to either remove or replace the Confederate flag. If this is indeed what Apple is demanding from the developers, it raises all kind of questions about censorship and historical memory as it literally risks rewriting history. Objectionable as it is, the existence of the Confederate flag in these Civil War games is historically accurate, and I’m not sure that any company should have the ability to mold history to its standards and beliefs.