It's not often that I test out an app that makes me nearly throw up on my iPhone, but iScab, a new game that simulates picking scabs off your skin, accomplished just about that.
The premise of iScab is fairly simple, and totally revolting. You are shown an animated section of human flesh with a multi-textured, multi-color scab on it. When you "scratch" the screen above the affected area, little flakes of scab peel away and fall off the screen, exposing the raw pink epidermis below. You then move on to the next scab, on a different area of skin; or, if you picked too quickly and caused bleeding, you must wait between 8 minutes and two hours until the scab has healed over before you are allowed to pick again.
Sound disgusting? It's about to get worse. We have video.
Here's a highlight reel of "demo scabs" being picked on the iScab app:
"iScab brings back a basic joy of childhood," reads the app description for iScab in the iTunes store. "Today, with the marvels of technology we can once again pick our scabs with pride ... and we can do it wherever we are, whenever we want. Scab picking has entered the 21st century!"
iScab is the brainchild of a two-man (yes, they're grown men) developer team called BeefBrain, comprised of Drew Marshall and Scott Wainstock. Marshall, 31, said the two friends developed the app as coding practice for Apple's iOS operating system, in their spare time after work. (Both have non-disgusting day jobs: Marshall works as a digital interactive designer, Wainstock as an engineer).
"There are a lot of gross-out novelty apps, like fart apps, nose-picking apps, pimple-popping apps," Marshall told HuffPost in a phone interview. "We wanted to create one that actually had good gameplay, and looks pretty and looks good."
"Rather than just crank out just another gross-out app, we wanted to make a refined gross-out app, if that makes sense."
iScab is not without its refinements. The animation is terrific, and the touchscreen responsiveness to your scratching is indeed sharp (can't believe I just wrote that). There is even an option, somewhere between immersive and deeply unsettling, that allows you to take a picture of your own skin and insert it into gameplay for virtual self-scab-picking:
The author, with a semi-healed scab in the iScab app for iPhone.
iScab is also, lest we forget, a game, and it hooks up to Apple's GameCenter. You can win achievements ("Complete 3 Big Scabs"; "Hands of a Surgeon"; "Power Picker"), and from the menu you can view your Scab Jar, a glass Mason jar that fills up with all of the past scabs you have picked. There is even a pop-up notification that reminds you to return to the game when a new scab appears: It appears like a text message and reads simply "You've got an itchy scab."
(Fun game: When you're in a conversation with someone you don't know very well -- at a party, or in the break room at work -- pull out your iPhone when you get this notification and make sure they see it. Then, look at them very seriously and go, "I'm sorry, I have to take this," and walk away).
iScab is, of course, not for everyone. The very concept turned the stomach of many people I told about it, the actual gameplay even more so. Even Marshall's girlfriend was less than seduced by the idea initially:
"Her first reaction when I told her was like 'Oh, some people are, like, curing cancer, and you're making an app about picking scabs. I'm so proud of you'," Marshall recounted. After a brief pause for reflection, he concluded: "She thinks it's disgusting."
And how does Apple feel about it? One demo video for the app refers to iScab as a "banned" app; I wrote Marshall to ask in what sense it was banned, as it is openly available to download from iTunes:
"We had to tone down the drips of blood that would originally trickle down when you over-picked for it to get approved," he replied. "And if we tried to get it in iTunes Saudi Arabia, we assume it wouldn't make it."
After that (disgusting) setback, Marshall and BeefBrain have made it into the iTunes store (in America, at least), and are trying to turn virtual scab-picking into the next big iPhone hit ("It'll overtake Angry Birds in a month, guaranteed," Marshall joked). For the iron-stomached, iScab is available in the iTunes Store for $0.99.
Just make sure you haven't eaten a big meal right before downloading.
Below, check out some screenshots from BeefBrain's remarkable iScab app: