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"Verboten" - Modern Warfare 2 (US), Left4Dead 2 (EU)
by Alex Covic on 12/01/09 08:10:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

As German PC Games (Computec Media) reports today, the US version of Infinity Ward's "Modern Warfare 2" and the European version of Valve's "Left4Dead 2" is on the index list in Germany, thanks to the BPjM the ("Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons").

On their Website they write "Our task is to protect children and adolescents in Germany from any media which might contain harmful or dangerous contents. This work is authorized by the "Youth Protection Law" (Jugendschutzgesetz - JuSchG)".

2 more examples why publishers and game developers have to be cautious if they want to sell their triple A titles in Germany. A country with a population of 82 million, spending over US$ 1 billion in 2008 on video games (probably even more). 

The "German Versions" of "Modern Warfare 2" and "Left4Dead 2" are not affected by this semi-legal institution. Titles like Resident Evil 5 or Grand Theft Auto 4 on the otherhand passed their inconsistent rating system. 

The ESRB/PEGI like BPjM rating allows these games still to be sold under the desk - literally. Importing these games via US/UK is possible. Downloading US/UK versions via (legal) digital download services like Steam or direct2drive is prohibited by law. Ordering the titles on Amazon UK or elsewhere is possible, but the majority of Germans still do not use creditcards, and/or are reluctant to give away their creditcard number online.

Meanwhile the piracy rate in Germany is amongst the Top 10 worldwide (sorry, have no real numbers on that one, but I guess you can find news on that too). Many potential customers don't buy what they don't see, they don't see what they don't know, because it is also risky to mention the censored titles in any print media. A District Attorney could find the newspaper or magazine "propagating a censored title" which is a felony and would by law be able to confiscate all issues of that magazine i.e. for writing about it (No joke. Happend in past years. Ask your German video game magazine journalist).

"Freedom of Speech" is in the German constitution too, but seems to have no meaning when it comes to political agendas and heavy lobbying by christian rights groups and similar organizations, who see their perks and highly subsidized (by the government/tax payers) workplaces under threat of a more liberal, democratic society, that puts parenting back in the legal hands of parents alone.

Politicians and parts of the society not only have a bigger lobby than German video game fans and publishers, but are also in this semi-legal "Federal Department"(the members in this commission are not elected but appointed by the church, lobbies and the state government).

Recent censorship attempts by the last German government led to the creation of a German variant of the Pirate Party. They attract young people and are fighting against federal government laws concerning the internet and privacy. They gained 2.0% of the total votes in the general election 2009.

As long as publishers are still making tons of money during an economic crisis in a rather fiscally stable country like Germany, there seems to be no interest in supporting their own lobby group BITCOM e.V "German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media" for pushing a more positive picture of video games and the video game industry as a whole.

 [sorry for typos and the not so slick lingo. I am no native english speaker and not a journalist.]


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Comments


Glenn Storm
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It sounds to me like there's a very active gaming underground in Germany. I have no idea about the politics involved, but legitimate or not, it sounds like there's some money being made. Thanks for the info!

Alex Covic
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Thanks Glenn, for reading. I am trying to justify creating an account on Gamasutra by hopefully having something at least vaguely interesting or useful to add - as an outsider, sneaking around.



There are people sitting in rooms watching every porn movie ever made, listening to every rap song, watching all the pre-recorded game footage to judge what is to which degree appropriate and what is not. It's quite insane.



I personally would consider all products sold to adults as a contract between grown people and a company - nothing any government has to interfere with! I could go "Ron Paul" on this topic but won't bore you guys anymore.



Video games should be protected by "Freedom of Speech" and if somebody does not want to play them, don't buy them. But unfortunately the government thinks adults cannot be trusted to raise their children, so 'they' want to regulate.

Sean Farrell
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Sorry, I think you have a fact slightly wrong. In Germany indexed games are legally like porn. You need a substantial age validation or else it is illegal to get the game. For example Okay Soft (http://www.okaysoft.de/) requires you to send a copy of your ID and then mails it you with the "to own hands" provision. (The mailman will only give it to you, validated by your ID.) It would also work if your have a separate show room for 18+ only.



Publishers want their game on the shelfs with all the other games, so they make a toned down version. That is very understandable, considering that most sales still make it though physical retail. The problem is that Valve (with Steam) and other digital distribution just do not bother to sell two versions and implement a rigid age validation scheme.



Freedom of speech is not impaired, since they are not censored (like Australia) only the provisions are raised. And in the US nobody complains that restrictions on porn sales impair freedom of speech.



On the other hand, I bought a cut l4d version by mistake. Since I did not see the point of buying two, was expensive enough. I got me a uncut one... I did not repeat the mistake with l4d2. It is true that the current situation is not really helping with the piracy issue. But I do not think that the index is the biggest problem. 50 EUR for a copy is way more the issue.

Alex Covic
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@Sean I don't mind staying corrected. I appreciate it, if you point out to wrong facts. I admit I simplified for dramatic reasons.



Still, the whole issue is more complex then I tried to explain in my little blog. It is unfair to point to some German language links, but those are the only ones I have to feed my arguments.



http://www.lehrer-online.de/570528.php points to the well known fact, that games that are on the index list must not be available or advertised for/to children. Digital download services cannot or will not provide that. http://www.videogameszone.de/aid,690067/Von-der-Leyen-Indizierte-
Spiele-im-Ausland-bestellen-ist-legal/News/ You need an army of lawyers to apply to the state laws for digital downloads:



"Für Computerspiele, die im Internet zum Download angeboten werden, gelten die Länderbestimmungen des Jugendmedienschutz-Staatsvertrags, die zum Teil abweichende Regelungen vorsehen (siehe zur Abgrenzung den Text Trägermedien und Telemedien)."



There is the difference between the USK (ESRB-like) rating and the BPjM index list. The whole system is corrupt in my opinion and I was trying to explain - in a lazy way - how this hurts retail sales and is unconstitutional in general.



And on top of that you have the index-list vs. "confiscated games". http://www.pcgames.de/aid,696225/Indiziert-und-beschlagnahmt-Was-
geht-was-geht-nicht/PC/News/



Those titles are the real "verboten" ones. You have to actually buy them personally in a foreign country and if the customs or a DA want to, they can still confiscate your copy of Wolfenstein etc.



Thanks for your comment.


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