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Germany softens ban on Nazi symbols in computer games

11 August 2018

The country, which has been previously infamous for heavy censorship of video games reaching their citizens from across borders, faces innumerable issues in reinforcing these laws as the industry globalizes to a further degree each year; this change in the USK's practice doesn't necessarily indicate a victory against censorship as a whole, rather continued evidence of the worldwide debate of video games as a medium of art dipping further towards the affirmative.

Germany is softening its stance against the use of Nazis imagery in computer and video games, the country's Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK) said on Thursday. But that section of the law has always included a "social adequacy clause" exempting works that "promote art or science, research or teaching, reporting about current historical events or similar purposes". It is a crime to give the Hitler salute or fly the Nazi flag with its swastika in the center. The offensive material was barred from computer games in 1990. Screen shots taken from Censored Gaming YouTube video.

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. 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. This has been the case for other forms of media, such as film, for years now.

Germany's constitution forbids the use of symbols deemed "anti-constitutional", including Nazi party-affiliated symbols, and violation of those rules can result in jail time. Furthermore, the attorney general said that the 1998 Wolfenstein decision was "outdated", in part because it predates the introduction of age ratings in 2003.

But that could be about to change as the USK, Germany's national ratings agency, announced some changes in how games will be rated and adjusted in Germany.

The move to lift the ban has been welcomed by German Games Industry Association advocating that they have campaigned for games to be permitted to have an equal role in the society, for a long time now.

Germany softens ban on Nazi symbols in computer games