Sweatshop Superstar was my first digital game. I teamed up with Lawrence Mascia, an artist and fellow designer, with the intention to create something a bit different. Something unexpected. So we made a game about sewing. Over the course of a year in our spare time Sweatshop Superstar was born.
You play as Pepe, a little boy that works in a factory. As you level up, the patterns get increasingly complex and the speed at which you sew increases exponentially. You control the sewing machine by tilting your phone back and forth. It requires intense concentration and dedication. When you miss a stitch, your boss whips your hands. If your boss whips you too much, you lose. This is all intentional. We were trying to design a game that mimicked working in a sweatshop. We want the player to empathize with a sweatshop worker.
The game was too unsettling for Apple and was rejected. While many violent games exist in the App Store, Apple found the content objectionable. We tried various iterations on the story, including changing Pepe’s gender and age, yet Apple continued to reject our submissions. A few months after we gave up hopes of releasing it on the App Store, Sweatshop HD was released by Littleloud. Phone Story was another banned game about sweatshops that came afterwards as well. Both of those games were eventually banned by Apple. The only way to play the Sweatshop Superstar was to see it at two art exhibits in New York.