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. Phone Story represents this process with 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. Keep Phone Story on your device as a reminder of your impact. 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.
Once upon a time, there were minerals resting in the bowels of the earth. One of these minerals, called coltan, is found in most electronic devices. The majority of coltan's world supply is located in Congo, a country torn by a brutal civil war. The increasing demand of coltan produced a wave of violence and massacres in Congo. Military groups enslaved prisoners of war, often children, to mine the precious material.
Like most electronic gadgets, this phone was assembled in China, inside a factory as big as a city. The people working there are constantly subjected to abuse and discrimination. They work in inhumane conditions and are forced into illegal overtime. Over the span of a few months, more than twenty workers committed suicide out of extreme desperation.
When you purchased this phone, it was new and sexy. You've been waiting for it for months. No evidence of its troubling past was visible. Did you really need it? Of course you did. A lot of money was invested to instill this desire in you. You were looking for something that could signal your status, your dynamic lifestyle, your unique personality. Just like everyone else.
This phone is designed to break easily and to quickly become obsolete. Soon, we'll introduce a new model that will make this one look antiquated — and you will discard it. It will join tons of highly toxic electronic waste. They say they will recycle it, but it will probably be shipped abroad. To places like Ghana, Pakistan or back to China. There, its materials will be salvaged using methods that are harmful to both human health and the environment. Parts of this phone will contaminate air and water, others will reincarnate into new products.