Benjamin Poynter sees the world in a very unique way.
A quick browse of his site will instantly reveal a bold, distinct, and technologically inspired manner of interpreting the world around him. What may be hard to put into words for some, Benjamin lays out in detail, often in a complex, prose-like manner.
His art takes a similar approach, and I would encourage you to try his latest game to prove this point – but you can’t. His latest work, “In a Permanent Save State” was removed from Apple’s App Store only moments after its release.
The striking nature of this title (which can be seen in this video) explores the complex narratives and pain felt by workers at the Foxconn factory in China. Their realities were brought to light in recent months by a series of suicides and riots in retaliation their beyond poor working conditions.
Benjamin felt it was fitting to create a piece of work that lived on the device that was so closely tied to their suffering: Apple’s iPhone.
Interested to learn more, he and I exchanged thoughts over e-mail about what it’s like to be one of the few people banned from the App Store.
Ben, your approach to art and the power of the messages they can convey is done in a manner that’s so unequivocally you. Can you tell me about your approach and how you choose topics to tackle?
Above all else, I want my work to address some element of modern day augmented existence.
This is a platform I believe video games can excel at. It can excel not just for itself as a medium but for issues it tackles.
Much like ‘Phone Story’, your game was specifically released on the devices that sparked controversy and pain for these workers. Why did you go down that path?
The spark of thought occured thinking about the crucible of Western hands interacting with, in very miniature percentage, the crisis they instigated.
There are many contradictions of the intended suit about this project and this is apparently the largest of them. I feel games have a unique position in bolting the deepest message in a player from simply the time and energy invested in going from point A to point B. I should think a message as ‘revealing’ as the Foxconn incidents coupled with that mechanic of playing would create a catharisis.
Prior to the game being almost immediately removed from the Apple Store, what was your intent with the game’s presence in the marketplace?
To almost ‘sit’ like passive resistance in the store like a sculpture and attract the attention it would have just from being the way it is alone. It would have garnered the downloads it would have and I believe, even after re-release, it will be the afterlife ‘In a Permanent Save State’ will see.
In the brief period when the game was actually downloadable, how did you feel about the critical reception it received?
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have too much time to calculate a proper media response outside of the fewer stories published before the ‘removal’ [insert laugh]. There was of course polarizing comments like anything you will see in the internet blogosphere.
For a project like this, I might naively say I would not be doing my job properly if I didn’t subvert expectations. Working with such material, especially as sociopolitical as this, one often has to pick a side do be able to establish a grounding for conviction and reason to exist.
In our first e-mail interaction, you mentioned how only 53 people downloaded the game before it was removed. I was eager to speak with you as I am one of those few.
How do you feel about the response from supporters of your game that gained interest in your project once they learned it was taken off the App Store?
There’s a saying like “the right place and the right time.” Pretty much how that went for me and the talented group of video game musicians (Reno Video Game Symphony, look them up!) who were on the sidelines staring at it all.
I have gotten emails for fellow experimental indie developers, general fans, and even Paolo of Molleindustria’s “Phone Story” either asking friendly questions or sending support.
The act of censorship from Apple has both opened up discussion for censorship in art and revealed the message about Foxconn in a greater light than the game ever could have without being removed. There is no telling where the game would have went if not removed at all, but where it is going is very interesting to say the least.
What’s your plan for the game now?
Android. November 12, 2012. A month from Apple’s removal.
For those who may not be able to ever play ‘In a Permanent Save State’, how can they help this issue?
Contact Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, based in Hong Kong. I’m heartfelt when groups, and especially of the academic suit, get together for something remarkable.