Despite their popularity, violent video games are widely criticized in Germany and the country has some of the strictest video-game censorship laws in the Western world. For example, German laws prohibit the sale of Counter-Strike and titles with
The Protection of Young Persons Act (PYPA)
The Act was enacted in 2002 and was Amended in 2003, 2004, and 2008.
The Act defines children as individuals under 14 years old and adolescents as those between 14 and 18 years old.
The Act requires business operations to publish legal notices with movie codes and ratings; they are also required to request identification from those with parental power accompanying minors. Children and adolescents are not permitted in public movie
performances unless those performances are cleared for them by the Supreme state authority.
PYPA, section 12 establishes that video games or any other games cannot be publicly accessible to children or adolescents unless they are cleared and labeled for their appropriate age group by the supreme state authority.
PYPA 2008- Amendments Relevant to the Video Game Industry?
In 2008, an amendment to PYPA entered into force. Under the amended Section 15 of the Protection of Young Persons Act, a video game that contains exceptionally realistic, cruel, and lurid images of violence as an end in itself is automatically indexed
and subject to severe restrictions on distribution and advertising. Further, these games may not be sold to underage persons. This kind of violent media is automatically indexed -- that is, it does not have to be assessed and rated by the supreme state
authority that is generally responsible for indexing, known in German as the Bundesprfstelle.
PYPA Section 18 –List of Media Harmful to Young People- states: Data media and telemedia which might have a severely damaging impact on the development and education of Children and Adolescents to responsible personalities in society shall be
registered by the Review Board and included in a List of Publications Harmful to Young Persons. Included are media and other publications with immoral and brutalizing content or those instigating violence, crime and racism. The 2008 Amendment added
some requirements to this section regarding violent video games. German authorities are to index media that contain acts of violence like murder and mass killings as ends in themselves as well as media in which self-administered justice is presented as a
successful and proven means for serving justice. This kind of media, according to the amendments, has to be assessed, rated, and placed on a list of media that is generally considered to be dangerous for young people.
The County Court in Munich decided to confiscate all versions of Manhunt in July 2004 because it violated a penal provision prohibiting the depiction and glorification of violence. Other games, including the violent video game Dead Rising ,
were placed in the Index and confiscated by a Hamburg County Court decision of June 2007.
GamePolitics has heard from several European gamers who have cited anti-game comments made by Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann to Zeit Online. Herrmann, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), refers to violent games as
Killerspiele (killer games). Big thanks to 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: 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.
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.
German nutters and politicians have just held a conference on violent computer games:
Douglas Gentile was, by far, the most moderate of the panel. He called to get rid of the simplistic idea that video games are either good or bad. And although he criticized ESRB, he opposed to a ban of the most violent games,
asking for more media literacy instead.
Werner Hopf, who presented a longitudinal study
claiming that violent video games is the most important risk factor in violent criminality rejected this idea, claiming that it was a trick of video game industry. Not only did he call for a ban of extremely violent computer games, but he also
called for the suppression of USK (German rating systems) because according to him it's too close to the industry. He asked for its replacement by a more independent rating organization.
[Hopf's study found that (1) playing violent electronic games is the strongest risk factor of violent criminality and (2) both media-stimulated and real experiences of aggressive emotions associated with the motive of revenge are core risk factors
of violence in school and violent criminality. The results of our study show that the more frequently children view horror and violence films during childhood and the more frequently they play violent electronic games at the beginning of adolescence the
higher will these students' violence and delinquency be at the age of 14].
USK was also criticized by researchers from the KFN, the Criminology Institute lead by Christian Pfeiffer, one of the most vocal German opponents against killer games . Regine Pfeiffer, Christian's sister, even attacked Electronic Arts violently,
calling it a pig company. [According to the report, she was frustrated in her efforts to sue EA over a violent game (Dead Space?) because the publisher is not headquartered in Germany].
Finally, journalist Rainer Fromm reiterated his objections against sadistic and militaristic games. But he also said that he considered video games per se as a great hobby, even telling that he plays them regularly as well as his children. He also
reiterated his very positive opinion of eSports.
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Hermann was happy about the success of this conference, and it confirmed him in his view that some violent games such as GTA 4 or The Godfather : Don Edition must be banned...
Tim Kretschmer, the German teenager whose shooting rampage has just left 16 people dead was a fan of the first-person shooter Counter-Strike , according to an early report from the Associated Press:
A 17-year-old who would give only his first name, Aki, said had played poker with Kretschmer, both in person and online, as well as a multiplayer video game called Counter-Strike that involves killing people to complete missions. He was good,
The President of the German Foundation for Crime, Hans-Dieter Schwind, calls... for a total ban on violent computer games, and a further tightening of the arms law.
The Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann has... expressed demand for a ban on so-called killer games renewed... he said, it generally must be clearly said that the games were available, the obvious just in young people
Romandie News reported via Google translation:
In a report prepared for a long time and voted Thursday by an overwhelming majority, the European Parliament calls for common strategy is developed at EU level providing for severe sanctions for retailers who sell adult games
to minors, or owners of Internet cafes that allow children to play games unsuitable for their age group...
German police investigating the Winnenden school shooting, in which 15 people died before the killer turned his gun on himself, believe one motive might have been a rebuff from a teenage girl who attended a New Year's Eve party at his home. The girl was
one of his first victims.
Detectives disclosed yesterday that Kretschmer, who was described by friends and family as quiet and polite, had a secret identity on the internet, where he participated in a discussion about school shootings under the name “JawsPredator1”.
The funny thing is that even when people like that announce what they are about to do in advance, no one believes it, he was said to have written in an online chatroom.
Detectives searching for clues to his character found more than 200 pornographic images on his computer's hard disk, including 120 photographs of female bondage.
The teenage gunman spent the night before his spree playing a violent video game in which a heavily armed mercenary tracks down and kills an arms dealer, police revealed.
Tim Kretschmer spent from 7.30pm to 9.40pm playing Far Cry 2 , in which the player takes on the role of the killer.
Parallels emerged between the video game and the 17-year-old's rampage. In the game it is essential to hijack cars to move around. Kretschmer hijacked a car, held a pistol to the driver's head and asked: Should I have fun and pick off some more
drivers? Characters in the game, which is made by the French company Ubisoft and has sold 2.9m copies, wear black camouflage uniforms – the clothing Kretschmer wore on Wednesday.
Far Cry 2 's killer uses a Beretta 92 handgun, the weapon fired 112 times by Kretschmer.
The game, which carries an 18 certificate in Britain, includes sequences in which the aiming, firing and reloading of a Beretta are portrayed in detail. It also rewards players who shoot their victims in the head, the style of killing chosen by
Kretschmer also played Counter-Strike , another game featuring gunplay, and TacticalOps , a special forces action game, both of which have a 16+ PEGI rating in Britain.
Major German retailer Kaufhof will no longer sell violent video games and films, after a teenager - who was an avid gamer - shot dead 15
people before killing himself last week.
On the basis of what happened in Winnenden, we have decided to take all the games and films deemed unsuitable for below 18 year olds out of our product range, Kaufhof spokesperson Sonja Kittel told AFP: The products which we now have in the
stores will be sold until the end of March but by April the sales will be stopped all together.
Thomas Burkhart, director of Kaufhof's media department, said within an hour of the decision, most of the games had been removed from the shelves.
Critics are now saying that Kaufhof, with over 20 000 employees and more than 100 branches in Germany, has overreacted and that this form of self-censorship is not necessary.
Knee jerking politician calls for 18+ certificate for everything Tim Kretschmer ever played
Minister for Social Affairs Mechthild Ross-Luttmann aims to achieve a general age restriction for addictive computer games. World of Warcraft, for example – available to minors at the age of 12 – might in the near future only be sold to adults. In
addition to this, parents need to be further sensibilized. Parents must know what danger potential exists in their children's bedrooms, Ross-Luttmann said.
Computer game expert and author of Digital Paradise Andreas Rosenfelder is rather skeptical about demands like this. I don't see a connection between digital role playing games like World of Warcraft and shooting sprees, he said. World of
Warcraft is a game set in medieval times in which the protagonists can take on the roles of dwarfs, elves and wizards. There is no shooting in this game.
In heated debates there can easily be some confusion, Rosenfelder said.
The head of Germany's national police union has called for a ban on violent video games in the wake of a horrific school shooting earlier this month.
Echo Online cites comments made by Heini Schmitt, head of the Hessen German Police Union:
It is known that in every situation in which a violent rampage has occurred, the perpetrator has had a remarked addiction to so-called killergames. The manner of the deed is astonishingly similar to virtual examples.
For him, the fact that roughly a third of children and youths regularly and addictively escape into a virtual world sets off alarm bells. Age restrictions for such games are often ignored. There is admittedly no proof that these frequent
escapes into virtual killerworlds can contribute to such insane deeds. But neither can the role killergames be completely dismissed.
When a chance to remove a probable cause exists, it must be used, he insisted: The world would be no poorer if there were no more killergames.
Thousands of people converged on the grieving German town of Winnenden on Saturday for a memorial service for the 15 victims of a shooting spree by a 17-year-old.
All Germany mourns with you, President Horst Koehler told a congregation of 900: Each child is born innocent, and when a child dies, it is hope and the future which dies too, Koehler said, calling for curbs on the kind of violent video
games believed to have influenced the teenage gunman, Tim Kretschmer.
Koehler backed families of the victims who appealed in an open letter for tighter gun control laws and a ban on violent video games of the kind which Kretschmer regularly played.
He said there should be restrictions on the spread of the innumerable films and videogames of extreme violence, with their display of dead bodies, while individuals should be able to say no to what they feel to be bad.
In their open letter addressed to Merkel and Koehler, the families of five of the victims said: Despite our pain and anger, we can't just do nothing. We want to make sure there is not another Winnenden. They called for teenagers to be denied
access to guns, for violent videos to be banned and violence on television to be restricted by the introduction of quotas taking into account the hours when children are likely to be viewing.
In the latest political attack on computer games, Bavarian Minister of the Interior Joachim Herrmann, a frequent critic of violent games, upped the ante by likening such games to illegal drugs and child pornography.
Herrmann made the charge in a [translated] press release:
...such games are one of the causes for youth violence and also for school shootings, where images from killer games become reality.
...more and more children are getting mired in this virtual world of violence. They have no time left for school or job training, and are lost to our society.
...In regards to their harmful effects, [violent video games] are on the same level as child pornography and illegal drugs, the ban on which rightly is unquestioned
However, a second German official, Commissioner for the New Media Thomas Jarzombek, criticized Herrmann's remarks: The comparison is completely inappropriate... anyone making such statements is unqualified to participate in any
further debate [regarding the] protection of minors from harmful media.
The German government is planning to ban paintball and laser shooting games in a knee jerk reaction to the recent school massacre in which 15 people died.
Under legislation agreed by the ruling coalition of the chancellor, Angela Merkel, using air rifles to shoot paint-filled pellets at opponents is likely to be made illegal, and would be punishable with fines of up to €5,000 (£4,480).
The decision, which is expected to be fast-tracked through the Bundestag before the summer recess, comes two months after 17-year-old Tim Kretschmar shot dead 15 people at his former school in Winnenden. Kretschmar's love of paintball as well as violent
video and computer games was widely publicised.
This so-called game plays down violence, leading to the danger that people have fewer inhibitions about shooting each other, claimed Dieter Wiefelsputz, of the Social Democrats.
Owners of paintball arenas, which are already out of bounds for under-18s, said they felt they were easy targets in what opposition politicians have referred to as populistic placebo politics.
The new law is also expected to forbid under-18s access to high-calibre guns and to make it easier for police to carry out random controls at the homes of registered gun owners.
Germany’s government wants to rush a new gun control law through parliament, but has apparently ditched unpopular plans to ban paintball.
Deputy head of the Christian Democrats’ parliamentary group Wolfgang Bosbach told daily Bild that the rushed law would be made possible by tying it to legislation on explosives already under deliberation.
The law has been motivated by a school shooting in March that left 16 people dead when a 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer attacked his former school with his father's gun in the southwestern German town of Winnenden. The gun was not secured and the massacre
has stirred up debate about whether the country needs stronger gun laws or a ban on violent video games.
Criticism from relatives of Winnenden victims has intensified. Head of the action group Amoklouf Winnenden, Hardy Schober, told daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that the new law would be simply cosmetic . His group wants a general ban on
high-calibre weapons and handguns in private households. Gun owners would also have to store their weapons in gun clubs.
Initial reports on the new gun law said that the ruling coalition had agreed to ban simulated killing games such as paintball, where players use air rifles to shoot ammunition filled with paint at opponents, and laser tag, a game where players attempt to
score points by shooting each other with an infrared-emitting gun.
But Dieter Wiefelsptz, 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, Wiefelsptz 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.
Gamed Politics is reporting that Germany's 16 Interior Ministers seem to have banded together to ask the Bundestag 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.
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.
A 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.
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
. [GamePolitics suggest that this is being done by the newly created internet blocking law but it sounds more like the 'indexing' method that bans German companies from marketing or advertising the product].
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 of the indexing of Gameware.at is that 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.
Germany has banned any public display of the immensely popular game CounterStrike .
As a result, tournaments have been cancelled - including the Convention-X-Treme tournament, as well as several Friday night game events. LAN parties are no longer permitted to play the game. Of course, in private dwellings, people are still able to play
The move has come as a response to a wave of school shootings that the government has blamed squarely on violent video games. In fact, ministers have proposed that the production and distribution of all violent video games should be banned.
It remains to be seen whether the minister's requests will be granted, and that video games will be subject to further censorship. This is clearly a first step along that path.
While information to that effect is sketchy so far, talk of 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.
With an apparent official crackdown against violent games underway in Germany, gamers are petitioning their government to back off.
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.
The petition 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.
A German nutter group has organized an event designed to get participants to bring their violent video games, tagged killer games, to in order to dispose of them in a trash can.
Aktionsbndnis 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.
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.
The Killer Game Drive put on by Aktionsbndnis Amoklauf Winnenden over this past weekend appears to have been a 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 skip has been put here to collect videogames: Killerspiele , the name given to violent games by Germany's tabloid press.
Midway through the day, a cameraman from a local television station clambers over the skip's side. He needs a compelling shot for the piece that will run tonight, a story about how swathes of Germany's youths have seen the error of their hobby and
brought their perilous playthings to this public burning. Crouching on its floor, he angles the camera upwards, while a young boy in a beanie and a puffer jacket leans over and hurls a copy of Grand Theft Auto in with an echoic clack.
The cameraman captures the premeditated moment from this particular angle because any other would reveal the truth of the situation: the skip is otherwise empty. By the end of the day, that sealed copy of San Andreas will be joined by Def Jam:
Fight for New York , OpenArena and Small Soldiers , a sorry clutch of ageing titles that represent the full extent of German gamers' ambivalence to this most uncomfortable stunt.
A group of Interior Ministers have been asking for a total ban on the production and distribution of violent videogames in Germany.
Thanks in large part to a petition, such a ban will not be enacted in the near future. German website Game Captain reports that the 73,000 signatures captured on a petition against banning such games allowed the matter to be taken up in front of
the Committee on Petitions. The petitioner was allowed to speak, and apparently asked more education on media be provided in place of the ban.
Parliament State Secretary Dr. Herman Kues, of the Federal Ministry for Home Affairs must have been swayed, as he announced that no changes to the current criminal code would be enacted. Instead the government will push for more public education
of the PEGI ratings system.
The computer game Dead Island has been banned in Germany.
Speaking to GameIndustry.biz Germany, a Techland spokesperson said that they expected this to happen:
This isn't unexpected. Germany has its unique regulations regarding video games and violence and the industry can only comply.
Germany's Federal Department of Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPJM) classified Dead Island as List B. Such games cannot be sold anywhere in Germany, and anyone caught doing so can face legal action. Importing retailers run the risk of cargo being seized
at German customs if they attempt to bring the game into the country.
The BPJM also didn't explain why Dead Island was banned in the country, but that is the norm for most bans.
Publisher Koch Media avoided German restrictions to some extent by distributing the German language version of the game in Austria.
Iran has banned the computer game Battlefield 3 because it depicts a U.S. military assault against the city of Tehran using tanks and aircraft.
All computer stores are prohibited from selling this illegal game, said an unnamed deputy with the security and intelligence division of Iran's police in a statement carried by the Asr-e Ertebat weekly.
An unnamed shop owner told the Associated Press. that Iranian police have raided (shops) and arrested owners for selling the game secretly even before the ban became public.
The Fars news agency reports on an online petition with 5000 signatures which claims a US conspiracy. The petition reads
We understand that the story of a videogame is hypothetical ... (but) we believe the game is purposely released at a time when the US is pushing the international community into fearing Iran.
We have no censored version of the game so we cannot release it in Germany. It feels fucking awkward to have one of the most successful games in years and nobody in your country knows it.
German rules on violent media say that it cannot contain violence against human-like characters and mutilation of corpses. Games often have to be censored so as to be made acceptable for release in the country.