Apple has a history of blasting fart apps from its App Store. But when is a fart just a fart, and when is it art?
Scott Kurtz, artist and writer of popular webcomic PvP, and his business partner Cory Casoni decided to find out with Farty Troll, a Flappy Bird clone about propelling a flatulent, blue giant named Skull through a maze of coffee cups using nothing but his own wind. Apple repeatedly rejected the app, but after a bit of straining and a lot of effort, it has finally come out.
It all started a year ago as part of Kurtz’s comic, which is about the employees of a magazine who were transitioning into game publishing.
“It’s really funny because the whole point of the game in the context of the comic strip was that it was a Flappy Bird clone and no one at the fictional company wanted to make that kind of a game,” Kurtz said in an interview with Cult of Mac. “But the market said that the best-selling apps were farts and Flappy Bird, so that’s what they were approved to make.”
“It didn’t take very long to make the game,” Casoni said. “So we developed a bunch of products around it, we even developed a plush doll. Our partners at We Love Fine actually invested the money to make a ‘Skull the Troll’ plush doll with Farty Troll branding on it. When you press his hand, he farts, and it’s the farts from the game.”
Farty Troll includes six different gas noises that play every time you tap the screen; they have names like “The Date Ruiner” and “The Percolator.” And if you really fall in love with one of them, the game also includes a sound board so that you can call them up at will. But even that took more work than you’d imagine.
“There was an audit of farts,” said Casoni, who recorded the sound effects “with his own lips and forearms.”
“I remember at one time, I had files on my computer that literally said ‘Approved Fart,’ ‘Not Approved Fart'” Casoni continued. “Sometimes, because they were just too gross, like it was too much. Other times, it was because we were like, ‘That doesn’t sound like a fart.’ You’ve got to find the balance because if the fart’s too real, then it’s not funny.”
“We’re not trying to make people vomit,” Kurtz added. “We’re trying to make people giggle like they’re toddlers.”
Farty Troll went to Apple for review on January 2, and the company didn’t see the humor. It quickly rejected the app, citing Section 16.1 of its App Store review guidelines, which specifically refer to objectionable content (“Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected”).
“Apple comes back with this letter that seemed to be generated by a robot. It was like a robot had to ask Cory what a fart is,” Kurtz said. “We could not stop laughing.”
Casoni forwarded us the rejection letter, which reads:
We found that your app contains content that many audiences would find objectionable, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.
Specifically, we noticed your app is primarily centered around farting, including the gameplay, having the word fart in the title, and a soundboard of different fart variations, as well as a fart sound for every tap during gameplay.
We encourage you to review your app content and evaluate whether you can modify the content to bring it into compliance with the Guidelines.
Farty Troll didn’t meet this kind of resistance from Google, according to Kurtz.
“They looked at the file and said, ‘Alright, have fun.’ You know, they checked the code and nothing was malicious, and everything was okay, then they told us to have a nice day.”
Kurtz and Casoni say that they submitted their game to Apple eight times over nine months before deciding to file an appeal and offer the context for the app.
“Cory sent this e-mail that said, ‘Look, Scott’s a cartoonist, this is all very meta, we have a closet full of plushes . . .” Kurtz said.
“We sent them the product information for the plush that we had done, with all the information on it,” Casoni added. “We sent them the comic strips so they could understand the joke, get the meta of the gag. We actually sent them our numbers from our website, how many readers we have. Within 24 hours we were approved.”
Farty Troll blasted onto the App Store on June 26, ending a months-long process of arguing with Apple. But Kurtz says it gave him plenty of material for the comic.
“Originally [in the comic], they were just gonna put the the game out. But then we thought, ‘This is our content, this is so funny.'”
The story of this game continue’s Apple’s long war on farts. The company said flat-out that it doesn’t want these kinds of apps on its smartwatch. But virtual assistant Siri will spin you some poots from sound-effects CDs available through Apple Music, so despite the company’s best efforts, some “objectionable content” is squeaking through.
Still, this presents an interesting precedent for developers because it looks like Apple will allow gas-centric apps under the right context. And while it ultimately remains up to Apple what they put in their store, this at least gives rejected creators a grounds for appeal.
Kurtz is optimistic about Farty Troll‘s place in history.
“We really feel strongly that we struck a win for art,” he said. “Farts are art. We held our ground.”