German stance on Nazi iconography in games softens

Video games in Germany will now be considered for an age rating by the Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK), and thus allowed to be sold in the country, even if they feature Nazi imagery.

Game – the German Games Industry Association, not the UK chain of stores – posted a blog detailing the decision and how it will impact the content of games released in Germany.

Felix Falk, Managing Director of Game, said: “We in the games industry are concerned about the tendencies we see towards racism, anti-semitism and discrimination. We are strongly committed to an open, inclusive society, to the values laid out in the German constitution, and to Germany’s historical responsibility.

“Many games produced by creative, dedicated developers address sensitive topics such as the Nazi era in Germany, and they do so in a responsible way that encourages reflection and critical thinking. The interactive nature of games makes them uniquely qualified to spark contemplation and debate, and they reach younger generations like no other medium can.”

The process will go as follows: a game will be submitted to the USK for an age rating, the body will then assess the title to see if the Sozialadäquanzklausel – ‘social adequacy clause’ – applies. This clause in the German Criminal Code decides whether or not the specific iconography in the specific game serves ‘an artistic or scientific purpose, or depicts current or historical events’.

If the game passes, it will be assigned an age rating and allowed on sale in German stores. Previously games were not allowed this privilege, and so not assigned age ratings – the common belief games with Nazi symbols in them were ‘banned’ was never technically true, but they weren’t legally allowed to be sold.

Movies featuring ‘unconstitutional’ iconography – as Nazi symbols are defined in Germany – have been privy to this approach for a while now, with games being something of a second class ‘refuse it immediately’ citizen. The softening of the approach helps to show how the perception of games is ever-changing, even in the halls of government.

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