Real Mug Shot iPhone Game: Cruel or Just Good Fun?



Thug Shotz is a new iPhone game where players “match the slime with the crime”  and “pick the crackhead” using real mug shots.

The app was first rejected by Apple on moral grounds, then approved. Thug Shotz ($0.99) is also available in a “Cell-ebrity” version ($1.99) where you can hook up the A-lister to the crime.

The shaudenfreude fest — in the same vein as controversial Busted! Real Mug shots app, but created by a different company called It’s Bailey Entertainment (IBE) — was first rejected by Apple on moral grounds, then approved. (Note: the screenshots are stock photos, but all photos in the game are real people.)

Cult of Mac talked to IBE Founder K. Patrick Whalen about how the app, which started as a lunch time diversion of “guess the perp,” made it into iTunes.

Apple initially rejected the game because it uses real mug shots which they felt was “immoral” and inconsistent with their long-standing, though unwritten, policy of not allowing applications which are “mean spirited” or “make fun” of people, IBE tells us.

The developers requested an appeal but the game was again rejected by the entire app review team.

In follow-up discussions with Apple, although IBE “noted the substantial investment in the game and the team’s desire to develop quality applications,” IBE was also told that the Cell-ebrity version of the game, which uses mug shots of actors, performers and athletes, would be rejected on the same grounds.

Not ready to back down, IBE told Apple that they were “controlling the marketplace and restricting trade.”  They tell us that Apple then did an “immediate about face,”  approving the Cell-ebrity application and putting it in the store that same day.   IBE was contacted the following Monday and advised that Apple had changed their policy and would also approve the original version of Thug Shotz.

So what happened?

“Apple claims they have changed their policies, but it is our belief that in speaking with their attorneys, they realized they are not a store as they would like to indicate, but rather a market,” says K. Patrick Whalen, founder of It’s Bailey! Entertainment. “By restricting what can and cannot come to market, they may have faced restraint of trade issues.”

How does Whalen answer accusations of making money from the misfortune of others?

“Some may feel we are profiting off a person’s misery, I don’t feel that we are doing that at all,” Whalen adds.  “There are thousands of websites, newspapers and television stories that report on these arrests.  We are simply making learning about them more interesting.  It also teaches people, we hope, that their instincts about someone aren’t as accurate as they might think.”