Why no kid (or kid at heart) should write an iPhone game

2012-10-09

Mike Gerwitz

I saw this post[0] appear on HackerNews, talking about how building a game for iOS is “fun” and “cool”. The poster lures the reader in with talk of making money and talks of a “unique sense of fulfillment” that comes with development of these games, and then goes on to invite kids to learn how to develop games for the iPhone (and presumably other iOS devices).

This is a terrible idea.

Getting children involved with hacking is an excellent idea, but introducing them to the evils of Apple and associating that with a feeling of pleasure does a great disservice; all software developed for iOS must be “purchased” (even if it's of zero cost) through a walled garden called the “App Store”. The problem with this is that the App Store is hostile toward free software[1]—its overly restrictive terms are incompatible with free software licenses like the GPL. Teaching children to develop software for this crippled, DRM-laden system is teaching them that it is good to prevent sharing, stifle innovation and deny aid to your neighbor.

A better solution would be to suggest developing software for a completely free mobile operating system instead of iOS, such as Replicant[2] (a fully free Android distribution). Even if Replicant itself were not used, Android itself, so long as proprietary implementations and “stores” are avoided[3], is much more compatible with education[4] than iOS, since the children are then able to freely write and distribute the software without being controlled by malicious entities like Apple. Furthermore, they would then be able to use a fully free operating system such as GNU/Linux to write the software.

Do not let fun and wealth disguise this ugly issue. Even more importantly—do not pass this practice and woeful acceptance down to our children. I receive a “unique sense of fulfillment” each and every day hacking free software far away from Apple's grasp.

[0] http://blog.makegameswith.us/post/33263097029/call-to-arms

[1] http://www.fsf.org/news/blogs/licensing/more-about-the-app-store-gpl-enforcement

[2] http://replicant.us/

[3] http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/android-and-users-freedom.html

[4] http://www.gnu.org/education/edu-schools.html