Phone Story

Release Date: September 13, 2011

Developer: Molleindustria

Learn the troubling creation practices behind the most beloved devices in the world.



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Molleindustria is an Italian team of artists, designers and programmers that aims at starting a serious discussion about social and political implications of videogames. Through the use of simple but sharp games, Molleindustria hopes to give a starting point for a new generation of critical game developers and, above all, to experiment with practices that can be easily emulated and virally diffused.

Phone Story is a game for smartphone devices that attempts to provoke a critical reflection on its own technological platform. Under the shiny surface of our electronic gadgets, behind its polished interface, hides the product of a troubling supply chain that stretches across the globe. All of the revenues raised go directly to workers’ organizations and other non-profits that are working to stop the horrors represented in the game.

Phone Story represents the process of device creation through four educational games that make the player symbolically complicit in coltan extraction in Congo, outsourced labor in China, e-waste in Pakistan and gadget consumerism in the West. The Phone Story website also extensively details the practices represented in the game through a series of international news articles, videos, and stories.

Gwanju (Korea)
AND Festival (UK)

Contact: [email protected]

USA Today
New York Times


Screen shot:

  1. 10
    Game Developer | Total Game Reviews: 1

    The cool and meaningful gameplay merges with an ironical and inhuman narration to create a provoking experience. Playing it on a mobile would be even more impressive.

    But for me, the most incredible moment was the first ending of the Obsolescence Mode. I was having fun, but I felt guilty at the same time, by having fun with mini-games that represents those abnominal practices.

    Made me think for a while.

  2. 9
    Total Game Reviews: 3

    Very smart storytelling, this does what games do best. My only criticism would be purely on the gameplay – the randomisation of the tasks sometimes means it’s easy and impossible (or much harder) to complete a task. Definitely worth a play through, however.

  3. 7
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    It was a bizzare game. I thought it was weird that you could download this to your android when it was basically saying if you bought a smartphone, then you were torturing children in Africa….

  4. 7
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    I thought this game was extremely informative. I had never heard of coltan until coming across this game. Now I’m much more aware and know that it is ultimately in a large amount of all of my devices. This game really showed the ugly truth behind the manufacturing of digital devices. It’s really a growing problem.

    This was a very unique and interesting way for me to learn about this topic. Usually I would just do research but by doing this hands-on in a game form made me want to actually learn more and I researched this after playing.

  5. 8
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    I thought the use of a video game to send a message was very clever. Keeping up with the times and also showing the world the realities of these poor people was a great idea! Great game keep up the good work!

  6. 10
    Tom Mowbray
    Total Game Reviews: 30

    It’s a very activist storyline; well explained. The game interacts very closely with the story line, really getting the player involved in the full lifecycle of this story of stuff, and understanding the true costs. The game got rejected by Apple App Store and that was used very effective to generate press publicity. The authors partnered with Yes Labs, which confers activist credibility. The video was an excellent demo/explanation. The collateral web content (the tabs) were excellent explanations of every real-world storyline. I think the game should let us choose to move forward after 2 tries; it’s a bit nagging to force us to perform with near perfection on every challenge, and then listen to the lecture over and over. But overall a really outstanding example of a social change game.

  7. 5
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    Overall too simplistic to me. If the point of the game is to get me to care about the suffering of people who contributed to make these devices, blocky, cartoonish characters that all look the same are a poor representation. The information was pretty general – only serving those who were entirely unaware of where their devices came from. I’d say the fact it was added and subsequently dropped from the App Store raises more awareness than the game itself. I’d like to see more scenarios than just the four.
    One good aspect is that you don’t necessarily know what to do your first playthrough, and so will fail and get chastised. That hammers in the "Don’t think you aren’t complicit" point. I just hope that anyone who learns about world issues from this game also knows what "complicit" means.

  8. 8
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    I give this game an 8 of 10 because it is a good way for people to put themselves in the positions of these workers and somewhat experience the horrors and realities of smartphone manufacturing. This game is effective as a campaign strategy because it raises awareness and makes users more educated on the issues. The game also received a lot of attention and media coverage since Apple responded by banning it. Apple said that this game "violated guidelines," but they obviously used this as an excuse and removed the game because they did not want to be criticized!

  9. 7
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    This game was a great way to campaign the issue but I felt that I was trying to beat the level rather than actually listen to what it what saying. Also, it was annoying to play on the computer considering Apple banned the app.

  10. 6
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    This game was successful in proving a point, but was rather difficult to play on the computer since it was made for a mobile device. I found it difficult to get to the next level and to receive more valuable information about the topic at hand.

  11. 4
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    The game needs to be improved entertainment wise and visually.

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