Germany is softening its stance against the use of Nazi imagery in computer and video games, the country’s Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK) said on Thursday.
The USK will now assign age ratings to games that depict symbols of “unconstitutional organizations” on a case-by-case basis, as long as they serve an artistic or scientific purpose or if they depict current or historical events.
The ruling mostly applies to Nazi symbols, which were banned from entertainment software in the 1990s. Previously, video games depicting Nazis as villains had to remove the offensive content before they were sold on store shelves. 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.
The USK’s ruling now places video games on equal footing with other forms of media that are allowed to use Nazi symbols, like films. The German games industry association Game said it’s actively campaigned for the change for years.
“This new decision is an important step for games in Germany,” said Felix Falk, managing director of Game. “We have long campaigned for games to finally be permitted to play an equal role in social discourse, without exception. 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.”
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“We in the games industry are concerned about the tendencies we see towards racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination,” he said. “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.”