Germany removes blanket ban on Nazi imagery in games

CREDIT Bethesda

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", she said. "The law still says, and will for many years say, that flooding the market with Nazi symbols is not something we want - it's forbidden", he clarified.

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German laws ban the public use of "symbols of unconstitutional organisations", including the swastika, the Celtic cross, and the Nazi salute - with punishments ranging from fines to three years in prison.

While German movies and TV shows have long used this artistic exception to depict historical Nazis, a 1998 ruling from the High District Frankfurt Court determined that the exception did not apply to Wolfenstein 3D. Computer games will now be assessed in the same way. Famously, all obvious indicators to Nazi Germany were removed from the German release of Wolfenstein II, from the swastika down to Hitler's mustache, until the narrative represented a fictional dictatorship to be opposed by the protagonist, not a historical one. 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. The gaming community have been strong advocates for video games to be treated like films.

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Because Nazi symbols in movies are generally tolerated in Germany, this led to nearly ridiculous situations where, for instance, the movie Indiana Jones was shown without edits during morning hours while the corresponding and identically titled cartoonish video game only showed black holes instead of Swastikas.

"This new decision is an important step for games in Germany", said Felix Falk, managing director of Game.

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The USK, which was given responsibility for policing content by Germany's youth protection services, also said that games themed on the Nazi era would be subject to an age limit.

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