So far our range of games has all been family-friendly.
We’ve been careful to ensure that user-submitted content is moderated and suitable for the whole family. We want our games to be played by the whole family – not only to make sure that all ages can play, but that they can even be played as a family.
The process isn’t perfect and we’ll always miss something, but we’re trying. Just last week we received a request to remove the word “tampon” from a word search called “shopping list”. It’s hardly offensive, but when mummy is playing our game with her little girl, I can understand that we don’t really want to be the reason for that conversation.
Anyway, it’s time to announce that our next release is absolutely not a family-friendly title. In time for Halloween, we’re making a horror-themed version of Splat the Difference. This decision was based almost entirely on the awesome name that inspired it…
Splatter the Difference.
From spiders and bats and other creepy creatures, to zombies, ghosts and chainsaw wielding maniacs, with the odd severed finger or squished eyeball thrown in for good luck. Plus, added clowns. We’ll be covering the screen in gorgeously drawn tomato ketchup and encouraging you to play with the lights out and the sound turned up. If you dare.
There’s no point doing a half-assed effort on this. We want it to be scary. But we don’t want to scare kids and I was expecting that we would be able to make it a 17+ game.
But apparently simply being scary is not enough to trigger a 17+ rating on the App Store. Developers self-rate their app by selecting “None”, “Infrequent/Mild” or “Frequent/Intense” in a number of categories. Selecting the highest level under “Horror/Fear Themes” bumps our app up to a 12+ rating.
In fact, I had a bit of a fiddle to find out exactly what was required to trigger the 17+ rating.
Declaring Frequent/Intense use of “Realistic Violence” still only rates your app a 12+. If it’s “Cartoon or Fantasy Violence”, that’s actually OK for 9+.
We have a picture of a zombie woman eating a baby with a fork that I’d rather like to use. It’s quite realistic, I suppose, but clearly fantasy, and not particularly violent – just gory. I’m not sure I want 12 year olds seeing this stuff – and certainly not 9 year olds!
There’s a separate category for “Prolonged Graphic or Sadistic Realistic Violence” which is totally prohibited from sale on the App Store. The same goes for “Graphic Sexual Content and Nudity”. Although you can get a 17+ rating for “Sexual Content or Nudity” apparently as long as it is not considered “graphic”. That’s a judgement call that you really have to hope Apple makes in your favour if you’re doing something a bit sexy with your, err, graphics.
The only other way to ensure your app has a 17+ rating seems to be by having frequent alcohol, tobacco or drug references. Do our vampires look stoned? What exactly are those witches pouring into the cauldron? That’s not really what we’re going for here.
So, I’m expecting a fairly long review time for this one. In the notes, I’m going to ask specifically if the game can be made 17+ without having to tell users it’s full of sex or drugs – which it’s not. I think it’s also going to be wise to send the review team a link to all our content and ask them to look in detail. The last thing we want is to get a quick review, where they only play a couple of rounds, then getting complaints after launch about a picture tucked deep into the game that results in a knee-jerk banning.
That horrible, slimy bowl of worms should be just fine. But the picture of a girl tied up and about to get beaten by a psycho with a mallet might be taking it a bit too far. Let’s defer that decision to the people who have the final say