Germany gives nod to depiction of Nazi symbols in video games

Screenshot by Sean Hollister  CNET

A clause in the criminal code that allows such symbols to be used in a "socially adequate" way will now be applied to games just as it is to films, the German Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK) said on Thursday.

All computer games sold on storage media in Germany have to be checked by the USK, which issues age ratings, but until now producers whose games contained banned symbols could not even hand them in for assessment, Secker said.

"This has always been the case for films and with regards to the freedom of the arts, this is now rightly also the case with computer and video games". "Computer and video games have been recognized as a cultural medium for many years now, and this latest decision consistently cements that recognition in terms of the use of unconstitutional symbols as well". Now video games will be given the same treatment as movies: As works of art, they will be exempt from the ban on swastikas. This led to an uproar in the gaming community demanding that games should be treated like films.


In the wake of that ruling, game publishers have had to make significant edits to numerous games for release in Germany, sometimes to a ridiculous degree. In the German version of Bethesda's 2017 first-person shooter "Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus", for example, the Swastika is replaced with another geometric shape, Hitler's name is changed to "Heiler", and his little mustache is missing. Before now, video games were not considered under the definition of art, but changing attitudes towards the medium has resulted in a tensive introduction of previously banned themes.

A computer game that was barred from showing swastikas and other Nazi iconography in Germany should be allowed to do so, an industry body has ruled. Furthermore, the attorney general said that the 1998 Wolfenstein decision was "outdated", in part because it predates the introduction of age ratings in 2003.

Felix Falk, managing director of the German Games Industry Association, has welcomed the move, and believes that games will finally be able to "play an equal role in social discourse".

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