1378 (km), the game based on the “death strip” separating East and West Berlin during the Cold War has seen its release delayed until December.
The game’s developer, a student at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design named Jens Stober, took to his blog to announce the postponement, which he said was partly due to criticism of the game. Comments about the title, such as the Director of the Berlin War Memorial stating “The seriousness of what once went on at the border can’t be portrayed in this way,” led Stober to claim that “an objective discussion of the game is presently impossible.”
Stober also offered a rather impassioned defense of games, specifically computer games, writing:
A large part of the criticism is a consequence of my chosen medium, the computer game. Computer games as a medium are often quick to be judged without being more closely examined, as was also the case with my art project. It was designed to enable a younger generation to access information on recent German history using a medium familiar to them.
A student-developed videogame centered on the “death strip” that separated East and West Berlin during the heart of the Cold War has run afoul of the Director of the Berlin Wall Memorial.
The game, entitled 1378 (km) and named for the length of the border between East and West Germany that was patrolled and policed for some 28 years, was created by Jens Stober, a student at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design.
According to The Local, 1378 (km) allows players to take on the role of border guards or escapees, while having them choose whether to “shoot, arrest, run, give up, kill, or be killed.”
The game is set in 1976, though “border guards who shoot to kill more than three times are magically transported to the year 2000, where they face trial for their crimes.”
A statement from Stober’s school on the game read:
Capcom has not received a classification for Dead Rising 2 from the German government, and it doubts it will ever receive one because the first game was banned in the region. So with that in mind it has decided to opt out of a public showing at this year's Gamescom event in Cologne, Germany. This makes a lot of sense because the company is only showing two games at this time and one of them is Dead Rising 2.
Still Capcom will be at the show behind closed doors showing off its games to the press. Here's what Capcom had to say about it:
A rather advanced (and enlightened) “school” in Germany exists solely to teach adults about the benefits of playing videogames and how to leverage games as a way to improve relationships and grow closer with their offspring.
Almost two-years old, the Leipzig Video Game School is targeted at parents and grandparents, reports DW-World.de. University of Leipzig instructor Claudia Philipp, who heads up the Video Game School, told the publication that her mission is “to broaden media literacy and allowing people to get acquainted with what kind of games there are, what types of genres there are.”
A sampling of who attends:
Gabriele Heidecker, 52, sits with her two grandchildren Jonas and Melika just a couple of machines down. This is the tenth time here for these three, who've been coming twice a week. Eight-year-old Melika is excited to have a video game-playing grandma.
The school is free to visit for the first two hours of play, then charges one Euro per hour per person.
A German website (translated) is reporting that the Collector’s Edition of Ubisoft’s Silent Hunter 5 PC game has been recalled in Germany due to the appearance of “anticonstiutional symbols” in the game.
This would indicate that some type of Nazi symbol or imagery was left in the local edition of the game, which is verboten according to German laws. Edge received confirmation from Ubisoft that the game’s standard edition was not recalled, only the special edition.
EuroGamer has an insightful piece up entitled “Killerspiele,” which takes a look at the state of controversial games in Germany.
The article begins by detailing the failed “Killer Game Drive” put on by the Aktionsbündnis Amoklauf Winnenden last month in Stuttgart, noting that Harry Schober (pictured left), a father of one of the German school shooting victims from earlier this year, founded both the organization and the game round up.
Other aspects covered include a detailed look at Germany’s game rating system, which “goes further than any other to ensure that unsuitable videogames don't get into the hands of unsuitable players,” and the positive effect that a gamer-driven, grass-roots effort had upon government.
Where the piece’s author—Simon Parkin—excels though is in his ability to frame perfectly both the anguish of Schober and the outrage of gamers, who feel that their rights are being affected by attempts to limit access to certain games:
We should always be mindful that videogames offer mere fleeting entertainment while life, in contrast, is infinitely precious. The former should never threaten the latter. Hardy Schober's anguish may be misplaced and his tabloid-friendly skip stunt deserving of mockery. But more than that, he deserves a conversation. If gamers cannot afford him that, then in some ways, they really are to blame.
The “Killer Game Drive” put on by Aktionsbündnis Amoklauf Winnenden over this past weekend appears to have been a relative failure.
The group was attempting to get people to come and toss “killer games” into a dumpster, and, well, while the Action Alliance did have a huge, graffiti-laden repository, let’s just say that it probably didn’t take them hours to empty it.
From pictures posted online of the event, it appears that just three games made it into the dumpster: a copy of Grand Theft Auto, Small Soldiers for the Game Boy Advance and one other unknown title.
A handful of pictures from the event can be found here.
Thanks again to Stephan for the head’s up!
A German advocacy group has organized an event designed to get participants to bring their “killer games” to in order to dispose of them in a trash can.
Aktionsbündnis Amoklauf Winnenden, or Action Alliance (loosely translated), has setup the event for this Saturday, October 17 in front of the Stuttgart State Opera. One game tosser will win a signed jersey from the German national soccer team. No word on what will be done with the “donated” games, but presumably they will be smashed or discarded in some way.
GP reader Matthias noted that one image used in the group’s promotion for the event appears to use a modified copy of an image designed to aid Germany in ridding use of the swastika, substituting a CD or DVD for the Nazi symbol.
The Action Alliance is made up, at least partially, of the parents of children slain earlier this year at the awful school shooting incident in Winnenden, Germany, which claimed 16 lives.
Thanks to GP reader Stephan as well.
In light of the game possibly containing a swastika, Activision Blizzard has decided to recall the game Wolfenstein from stores in Germany according to Kotaku.
A translation of a story on the 4players .de website, the original source of the story, notes that although the imagery “is not a conspicuous element in the normal game,” the publisher has decided to “decided to take this game immediately from the German market.” The game was released for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. All versions are being recalled.
Planet Wolfenstein commented that eliminating the offending subject matter could be difficult, given that the game’s development teams from Endrant Studios and Raven Software have already been laid off.
In response to a violent in-school incident that took place in Germany last week, a school principal has created the term “killergame,” and is attempting to implement a plan that would try and keep students from playing such games altogether.
A school in Ansbach, Germany was the location of the attack, in which an 18-year old male student reportedly injured nine classmates with a variety of weapons, including an axe, knives and Molotov cocktails. While games were not mentioned in the original news coverage of the rampage, Negative Gamer found and translated an article in which Brad Denning, Principal of the Schramberg Second School, touched on plans for making the educational facility “killergame free.”
Denning, courtesy of Negative Gamer's translation, stated:
Even if there isn’t a monocausally relation between excessive playing of games, leading to acts of violence, it still provides a twisted frame of reference of solutions for their problems and hardships, that they learn – and may transfer to the real world under certain circumstances.
The popular, World War II-themed RTS Company of Heroes is shortly to enter the Chinese game market as Company of Heroes Online, reports Kotaku.
When it does, all references to Nazi Germany will have been purged. The German side will be renamed "The Federation," while iron cross symbols on German vehicles and buildings will also be changed.
In recent times, Germany has become Ground Zero in the debate over video game violence.
Consider that the German Parliament is expected to consider a total ban on the production and distribution of violent games next month. Meanwhile, top-tier developer Crytek (Far Cry, Crysis) has threatened to relocate out of the country if the ban becomes law.
In the latest development, EA exec Gerhard Florin (left) has called for Germany to drop its USK content rating system in favor of the PEGI system, which is widely in use in other European nations. Said Florin:
What we're doing here [with USK rating] is censorship. And no one complains. When we talk about games here it's about violence or their alleged addictiveness, and not about their cultural status. The few good studios are asking themselves why they should stay here anyway.
USK boss Marek Brunner took issue with Florin's criticism:
It's hard when half-truths are being used. They say the USK does this wrong, the USK does that bad and why doesn't this get a rating?
Brunner noted that other government bodies influence the type of game content which can be sold, including the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons and the criminal courts.
Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli seems determined to find a new base of operations if the German Bundestat passes a ban on the production and distribution of violent games next month. Crytek's games, of course, include the first-person shooter franchises Far Cry and Crysis.
Joystiq reports that Yerli made his comments while delivering the keynote address at GDC Europe in Cologne:
[This proposed ban] means that Crytek will be literally forced out of the country... If you move a company, you think of it as: let's move the company strategically, so we get more benefit out of this country. But moving it because a law comes in is too reactive for us. We're not thinking of moving unless the law happens.
As GamePolitics reported, Yerli made similar remarks earlier this month.
It seems like just hours ago that we linked to a report claiming that Germany had surpassed the UK as Europe's number-one video game market.
Oh, wait. It was just hours ago. Well, put a big oops! on that one.
gamesindustry.biz, which was among several sites that also carried the original story, is now reporting that the source of the data, Gfk Chart-Track, has admitted to a screwup. Germany is not ahead of the UK in game sales:
Gfk Chart-Track in the UK has contacted GamesIndustry.biz to admit that the press release it issued earlier today had been written using incorrect data. The company is expected to release a correction shortly. It is understood that Germany is not a bigger games market than the UK.
This is the second time in as many weeks that GfK Chart-Track data has been publicly questioned. Last week, Nintendo contacted GamesIndustry.biz following confusion over UK sales figures for the first half of the year.
GP: Somebody at Gfk needs to get their act together...
While violent video games are a major target of late for German politicians, that hasn't stopped Germany from climbing into the number one spot among European game markets.
gamezine.co.uk reports that Germany edged out the UK, largely because the current recession hit the UK software market harder, triggering a 20% drop in software sales.
The top selling game in Germany? Wii Fit.
Among other European countries, Portugal posted a 16% increase in game sales, while Sweden (The Pirate Bay notwithstanding) climbed 4%. The Netherlands saw a 2.4% rise.
Check out GamePolitics' recent coverage of game-related news from Germany.
Far Cry and Crysis developer Crytek has renewed threats to leave Germany if a proposed ban on violent video games is passed. As GamePolitics noted in June, the recommendation by German interior ministers would impose a total ban on the production and distribution of violent games.
Edge Online has comment from Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli (left) on what the unprecedented government action would mean for his company:
A ban on action games in Germany is concerning us because it is essentially like banning the German artists that create them. If the German creative community can't effectively participate in one of the most important cultural mediums of our future, we will be forced to relocate to other countries.
The current political discussion will deprive German talent of its place on the global game development stage, and deprive German consumers of entertainment that is considered safe and fun around the world.
How extreme is the anti-game sentiment in certain quarters of the German government? So extreme that in 2004, a SWAT team raided Crytek's offices. Crytek developer Tim Partlett described the scene:
In 2004 the Bavarian authorities sent in the state troopers... When the small tech team appeared to inspect our computers, they were accompanied by over one hundred flak-jacketed riot police, all armed with Heckler and Koch sub-machine guns.
It was a total overreaction... They arrived first thing in the morning, and kicked down our doors. They even raided the nearby private residences...
I was caught just outside the office... We were all shepherded into our Mo-Cap room, and there we were forced to remain until questioned, prevented from leaving by dozens of armed guards...
More than 60,000 Germans have signed a petition against the ban, triggering a mandatory government review of the proposal.
Who says online petitions are a waste of bandwidth?
Earlier this month, GamePolitics reported on a petition posted to the official internet forum of the Bundestag (the German Parliament) opposing a plan by Interior Ministers to ban video games "where the main part is to realistically play the killing of people or other cruel or un-human acts of violence against humans or manlike characters."
The petition passed 50,000 signatures about two weeks ago meaning the German government will be required to review and discuss its requests. Granted, this does not mean that the ban will ultimately be reversed, but it is a step in the right direction. The petition itself reads:
The German Bundestag should decide against the decision of the interior minister conference from the 5th of June, that aims for a ban of action computer games. As an adult citizen and a person eligible to vote, I beg you firmly;
To erase the irritating and discriminating term of 'killerspiele' [killer game] from political discussion.
To strengthen the trust of the public in existing national youth protection mechanics.
To improve and warrant the execution of existing laws, that ensure kids and the youth only get access to video games and computer games rating according the USK.
To support parents and educationally responsible persons in the advancement of media competence.
To promote the computer games and video games industry in Germany and especially the training of these promising professions.
Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen...
With an apparent official crackdown against violent games underway in Germany, gamers have petitioned their government to back off.
German GamePolitics reader "Christian" explains:
In Germany citizens are able to post petitions in an official internet forum of the Bundestag. These petitions are "accepted" when 50000 German citizens electronically sign the petition. When petitions are accepted, the German government has to review, respect and discuss the petition's postulation.
At long last a petition against videogame bans in Germany is online. One can sign the petition here. To watch the development of the petition one can look here.
German gamer Matthias Dittmayer adds:
Yesterday 300 [German gamers] had signed [the petition]. Today it’s over 9000... With more than 50000 at August the 28th our parliament have to deal with the topic. We have no public decision concerning the national level. Just a right that they have to listen to the demand.
As I post this, more than 25,000 German gamers have signed the petition.
We have read some reports of late that German officials have banned the public display of Counter-Strike, forcing the cancellation of gaming competitions.
While information to that effect is sketchy so far, such a ban would be consistent with our May report on the forced cancellation of a LAN event in Stuttgart which featured Counter-Strike and Warcraft III competitions.
German gamers aren't taking these repressive measures lying down, however. An estimated 400 gamers assembled for a June protest march in Karlsruhe. German gamer Matthias Dittmayer e-mailed GamePolitics to let us know that more gamer demonstrations are planned for later this month:
Because of this [censorship] there was the (as far as I know) first demonstration of gamers in Germany with up to 400 gamers. The next 3 demonstration in Cologne, Karlsruhe and Berlin are announced for the 25th of July.
Earlier this month GamePolitics reported that German Interior Ministers were seeking a complete ban on the production and sale of violent video games within Germany. Given more recent events, it appears that officials may seek to reach beyond German borders as well.
Although the Bundestag has not yet acted on the ministers' ban request, an online video game retailer based in Austria claims that the German state of Bavaria has moved to blocked access by German customers. VideoGamesZone.de reports that the Bavarian Commission for the Protection of Children Against Media Abuse filed a lawsuit to shut down Austrian online retailer Gameware.at. Company spokesman Chris Veber told VGZ:
We've called our lawyer and are appealing, of course... this is violating the freedom of expression and wrong specifications from the [German ratings body], since we are not sending our products out to minors and do not have videos showing violence at [our site]. We are not breaking any Austrian laws...
The economic consequence would be the [silencing of] Gameware.at. No one would be able to find us on Google, the advertisements would be gone, no magazine would be allowed to mention our name...
Veber conceded that violent games are big sellers for his company and that 80% of his customers live in Germany.
Meanwhile, longtime GP reader Soldat Louis reports that last week the Bundestag passed a law to block access to some websites. This would appear to be the legal vehicle being employed against Gameware.at:
Officially, the goal is to struggle against child pornography. But in reality, many people fear that it could be a giant Internet censorship system... Indeed, now that the law has been passed, Thomas Strobl, head of the CDU for Baden-Wurtemberg state, called to extend it to "killergames"-related websites...
Global Voices Advocacy has more, including information on German citizens who are protesting the government's new policy.
GP: We'll be monitoring the German situation closely.
It appears that Germany's 16 Interior Ministers have banded together to ask the Bundestag (Germany's equivalent of Parliament) to ban the production and distribution of violent video games. Moreover, the ministers hope to see this accomplished before Germany's new elections take place on September 27th.
Although we're hampered a bit the language barrier, GamePolitics has received this information today from three German readers. Their accounts appear to coincide with this Google translation of a Spiegel Online report.
The move comes during a scheduled conference of interior ministers. School shootings, in particular the March 11th rampage committed by a 17-year-old in Winnenden, were prominently mentioned in relation to the group's demand for a ban on violent games.
If passed, such a move would affect not only German game consumers, but German game developers such as Crytek (Far Cry, Crysis). Under the proposed law, Crytek would apparently need to outsource development of violent games or even relocate its operations to another country.
Bomberman and Nazis - how often do you see those two in the same headline?
Negative Gamer reports that a former German politician, Martin Budich, has been arrested for allegedly invoking violence against Nazis via the well-known video game character.
Budich, who opposes the Nazi agenda (good for him), apparently took his fervor a bit too far by exhibiting the protest poster at left on a website. The image shows Bomberman holding a cake with a burning fuse serving as the candle. The text translates to “No cake walk for Nazis.”
According to Negative Gamer's interpretation of a Heise report, Budich's posting of the Bomberman graphic has been blamed by prosecutors for contributing to an "aggressive atmosphere" at an anti-Nazi demonstration in Bochum last October.
This wasn't Budich's first bust on such charges. He apparently has an earlier conviction in a similar case (sans video game characters).
Last week's news that Germany would ban paintball and laser tag seems to have been premature.
The move came as part of the government's response to the horrific school shooting in Winnenden on March 11th. Violent video games also came under criticism from some German officials after the massacre.
The Local is now reporting that German officials have abandoned the plan to ban paintball:
Initial reports on the new gun law said that the ruling coalition had agreed to ban simulated killing games such as paintball... and laser tag... But Dieter Wiefelspütz, an expert on domestic affairs for the Social Democrats, on Wednesday said lawmakers had abandoned the idea of making paintball illegal...
The government, however, plans to conduct an enquiry to assess whether paintball regulations should be tightened by increasing age limits and other measures, Wiefelspütz said...
The sport is banned for those younger than 18, and is generally not played in military fatigues like in other countries. A report commissioned by the government in 2000 concluded it did not make people more likely to engage in violence.
Instead, German officials plan to pursue enhancements to existing gun control laws.
A pair of German researchers claim that violent video games are a creation of the U.S. military.
Writing in the latest issue of Current Concerns, Renate and Rudi Hänsel call for a ban on violent game and echo the military conspiracy theme espoused in the U.S. by followers of fringe political figure Lyndon Larouche:
During the nineties the killing simulators, employed for hand to hand combat in the US army and police, were released by the Pentagon to be sold for private use on the public markets. As a consequence the computer and video game industry that had co-operated with the Pentagon from the very beginning, boomed. Since then the so-called killer games have wreaked havoc among children and youths.
The US army’s electronic training programs for killing people must be taken back to the US barracks, where they came from. They have to disappear from civil society altogether. They may be appropriate for the purpose of national defense or fight against crime; they have no place, however, in children’s rooms or in living rooms.
In addition, the Hänsels relate violent games to school shootings and quote German and Swiss political figures who have called for a ban on such products.
Oddly enough, they also harken back to a post-World War II German ban on war-themed toys.
GP: Thanks to longtime European reader Soldat Louis for the tip!
We don't have many details on this one, but The Station Network reports that new legislation before the Parliament of tiny Luxembourg seeks to block sales of violent video games to minors:
New legislation was introduced through parliament yesterday meant to protect minors by punishing online sexual predators and violent video game makers...
“It's very bad that people make money by selling games where you can decapitate people to minors,” [Minister for Justice Luc] Frieden said. Those who provide games and movies that are too violent to young people will be condemned. Judges will determine the degree of violence.
While it is unclear what is driving the current legislative push, we note that Luxembourg is only a few hundred miles from Winnenden, Germany, the site of the horrific March 11th school shooting rampage.
Violent video games, a frequent political target in Germany, once again came under fire following the horrific school shooting in Winnenden on March 11th.
While there were renewed calls for a complete ban on violent games, it was, surprisingly, paintball and laser tag which, ultimately, will find themselves outlawed.
The Local reports that violators of the upcoming bans could find themselves on the wrong end of a €5,000 (about US$6,800) fine. Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy head of the conservative Christian Union parliamentary group, commented:
We have agreed on reasonable changes that will mean more security without over-regulating hobby marksmen and hunters... [Paintball and laser tag] simulate killing.
The Winnenden case also sparked a debate on gun control in Germany. The BBC has more.
Dr. Cheryl Olson (left), co-author of Grand Theft Childhood, was interviewed about the video game violence issue recently on German television.
The game violence debate, as GamePolitics readers know, has been raging anew in Germany since last month's horrific school shooting rampage in Winnenden.
Andreas Garbe, who conducted the interview, provides an English translation on his blog. Among other topics, Dr.Olson spoke about the oft-made claim that violent games motivate school shooters:
There is so much publicity about school shootings in the US, Germany and other countries. But a review of the data shows that this type of violence is not increasing – it’s the media coverage of the violence that has gone way up. So, people believe that school violence is much more common than it is. (Your child is actually more likely to be struck and killed by lightning than to be shot at school.)
The Secret Service and the FBI in the US have studied school shootings in an effort to identify a “profile” of potential shooters and prevent these tragedies. They were not able to find a profile. The only thing these shooters had in common was male gender and (often) a history of treated or untreated depression...
Dr. Olson also disputed the claim that school shooters learn to fire a weapon by playing violent video games:
Also, we researched the issue of whether it’s possible to learn to shoot from a video game. Experts told us that it’s actually not difficult to shoot a gun at someone who is not moving, is not shooting back at you, and is not far away from you – even if you have little experience with guns. Media reports on a few school shootings in the U.S. said that these boys had never fired a real gun, but learned only from video games; this turned out not to be true. They had practiced with real guns...
But Dr. Olson believes that video game ratings could be more useful: