Although last week's report of a Dead Space ban may be spurious, violent video games continue to come under fire in Germany.
GamePolitics has heard from several European gamers who have cited anti-game comments made by Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (left) to Zeit Online. Herrmann, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), refers to violent games as Killerspiele (killer games). Big thanks to ECA forum member felix-reichert who has very graciously provided a translation of the interview:
ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Herrmann, which "Killergames" have you played to come to the belief that they must be banned?
Joachim Herrmann: I personally don't play, but I have watched them [being played] extensively. I am shocked how the player is driven towards gruesome violence. He, so to speak, becomes a criminal himself and kills others to obtain money or to collect points. The more gruesome the killing the higher the score. We don't need something like this. Such games are unbearable.
ZEIT ONLINE: Obviously you are talking about the GTA-Series. The most recent GTA is rated 18. Why shouldn't adults be allowed to play these games?
Herrmann: From a cinema-owner I can expect that he actually only lets people over 18 years in. But if we're talking about Computer games its different. If an 18-year-old has a game, the next day he'll pass it to 17-, 16- and 15-year-olds. I don't believe that there's an entitlement for these games in our liberal society. The protection of children and the youth must be a priority. Its not about the playing [of these games] alone. There are numerous studies that explicitly prove: the more intensive teenagers engage themselves in these games, the higher the danger of them imitating this [behavior] in reality.
ZEIT ONLINE: Media-scientists haven't found common ground on that issue, though.
Herrmann: The criminologist Christian Pfeiffer provided corresponding evidence from his studies at our expert-round in Berlin. Of course not every player becomes a violent criminal. But even if games only cause a rise of a certain percentage in youth-violence it is reason enough to outlaw them. In other fields we also have clear bans, I'm thinking of child pornography.
ZEIT ONLINE: Still, the problem isn't that these games exist, but that children can still acquire them in spite of the German age-restrictions.
Herrmann: That is one of the problems. But the bigger the danger of such games getting to the hands of children and teenagers the more the state has to intervene. It is also forbidden for everyone to trivialize the crimes of the national-socialists.
ZEIT ONLINE: However the [indexing] that exists today is in fact equivalent to a ban. For example indexed games can't be advertised.
Herrmann: That's not enough. Games that glorify brutal violence must generally be banned in penal law.
ZEIT ONLINE: The penal law already outlaws glorification of violence. A Bavarian draft for a new paragraph didn't find consent in Bundestag [German parliament, a bit similar to the House of Reps]. Also after six years of discussion the youth-protection-law was changed – and some say it wasn't even tightened. Do you really think a ban is possible?
Herrmann: We won't peg away at that, we want to continue this discussion. With the totally insufficient changes of the youth-protection-law this isn't concluded for us.
ZEIT ONLINE: The games-industry would call such a ban unconstitutional.
Herrmann: I'm very much hoping for a change of opinion there. Even today there are manufacturers that completely abandon the violence field. They want to make intelligent games, educational games, and many other fascinating things.
ZEIT ONLINE: But a number of manufacturers earn their money with games containing violence.
Herrmann: There's massive pressure from U.S. manufacturers. But we also do not have a different weapons law than America for no reason – over here not everybody can walk around at will with a firearm. We mustn't let certain aberrations of American society gain influence here.
GP readers Soldat Louis and David Ziegler report that in the wake of the Zeit Online interview, German magazine PC Games called on gamers to conduct a massive mail campaign to CSU leadership by way of protesting Herrmann's implication that violent game players are potential killers. The CSU responded with a press release calling for an urgent ban, and dismissed the gamer protest.
Apparently some younger officials of the CSU and other parties have voiced opposition to Herrmann's proposed violent game ban, which is an interesting development.