Germany Moves To Ban Violent Videogames

By Jim Rossignol on June 7th, 2009 at 3:23 pm.


Game Politics reports that Germany’s sixteen Interior Ministers have asked the Bundestag to ban the production and distribution of violent video games. This would mean violent videogames could not be purchased at retail or online in Germany, and that companies like CryTek would have to leave the country to continue production of their games. (That, or come up with creative solutions. Perhaps replace all the guns with vomiting cats? Would flicked elastic bands work, or do they come under violence?) Some more thoughts on this beyond the jump.


The move by Germany’s central government seems to have been inspired by the media reaction to recent school shooting in Winnenden, Germany, in which a seventeen year old killed sixteen people. It emerged that the perpetrator played Far Cry 2 and CounterStrike, as well as table tennis. He was also an unhappy teenage boy. Needless to say, fatuous conclusions were drawn.

It’s perhaps worth noting there has never actually been any evidence to show that violence in videogames increases the likelihood for gamers to go on a rampage with deadly firearms.

Nightmarish censorship implications aside, the potential outright banning of violent games certainly suggests that this could be a fascinating social experiment: will there be any less violence in Germany as a result of violent videogames being banned? Will peace and love break out among alienated teenagers who are denied gory entertainments? Or will creating yet another taboo simply make the experience of playing violent videogames even more transgressive, and therefore even more exciting? Hard to know, eh? Yeah, it really is.

Then again, perhaps there won’t be any correlation at all, and Germany will be left looking for something else to blame when another bunch of people get their lives taken away. And, you know, MAYBE THERE’S ANOTHER FACTOR INFLUENCING THESE SHOOTINGS.

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186 Comments »

  1. MA6200 says:

    This is a shame – obviously table tennis is the real problem here.

  2. fugo says:

    TABLE TENNIS IS TURNING OUR KIDS INTO PSYCHOPATHS! BAN TABLE TENNIS!

  3. teo says:

    just wait until they try to impose it on everyone else through the EU

  4. Theory says:

    will there be any less violence in Germany as a result of violent videogames being banned?

    What’s happened in Greece? Are games (of all electronic kinds) still banned there?

  5. PC Monster says:

    Charlie Brooker for Prime Minister!

    I say we ban knee-jerking politicians hoping for easy popularity based on emotive issues. God forbid we let piffling little things like ‘facts’ get in the way of a good old-fashioned witch-hunt.

  6. Bigfoot_King says:

    They get from tax from the violent game business anyway so banning games will make them worse off and this can be a bit vauge such as plants vs zombies has violence yet we don’t see it has a violent game. People will find ways around the rules

  7. LactoseTheIntolerant says:

    Hasn’t there already been censorship of violent games in Germany for some time now? That was working a treat.

    Also: oh my sweet merciful bear. I want to weep. To weep and to rage.

  8. German says:

    Actually all of the recent pupils that ran amok got their guns from rifle clubs/shooting ranges. Unfortunately our polititians like these clubs, otherwise they would be prohibited. This would make it much harder for pupils to get guns.
    Anyway, most Germans already buy their games in the UK or Austria due to the stupid censorship in Germany. I’m 24 years old and my government wants to tell me what to play.
    Now I’ll go and take part in the european election. At least I know which party I wont vote for ;D.

  9. Christian says:

    Well..politicians here in Germany (as well in most other (European?) countries) tend to always demand to ban things. After all, it’s election year (not only European Parliament, but also we’re voting who will be the next Bundeskanzler).
    The discussion about banning violent videogames is restarted with each killing spree, and the discussions about it are mostly more about publicity than about the real facts and causes or the victims.
    The latest thing was a proposed law to ban paintball, because it was thought to lead to some sort of para-militaristic training for future killing-sprees. Or something.
    The discussions would be quite funny in fact, if the matter wasn’t so serious. And the people leading those discussions in public are mostly so furiously incompetent that it really hurts sometimes.

    It really is a shame for german developers though, seeing the economic cryisis and all.

    Enough ranting, tl;dr: Let’s ban table-tennis already!!

    [edit]
    Yes, German above me there is right: most adults buy their games from play of cdwow. Except for Steam-games, we still can’t buy Unreal-Tournament over here.

    And: Yes, go and vote if you’re in Europe and haven’t done so. Who doesn’t vote isn’t allowed to complain afterwards. :D

  10. qrter says:

    Before clicking that link I was almost sure it was going to be that Newswipe clip. Nice.

  11. Piispa says:

    Won’t somebody think of the children?!

  12. Dubbill says:

    That Newswipe piece is so upsetting. Gets me every time :(

  13. derFeef says:

    Were there violant videogames in the 1940´s already ?

  14. cliffski says:

    This ban is silly, and I oppose it. However, I also strongly oppose some of the over-the-top sadistic shit shovelware games like ‘manhunt’ that companies churn out, knowing they can easily trick the mass gaming media to blindly support them.

    I *do* think violent games affect people, just like violent TV, movies and other culture does. Anyone who thinks otherwise should read up on the studies of the psychological effects of advertising (I recommend ‘the advertised mind), specifically the way the amigdala processes emotional responses before our conscious mind kicks in. We might *know* its just a game, but the automatic emotional responses in our brains are influenced before we even get to think about it.
    I’d also strongly recommend this:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2003/jun/14/weekend7.weekend2

    This is about bhutan. Effectively, this is a huge country-wide experiment in what happens when you introduce TV to a country. It’s pretty scary stuff, and highly relevant to the topic of what effect this might have.

  15. l1ddl3monkey says:

    What will they ban after this ban has absolutely no effect on reducing the number of gun rampages in their country?

    Wouldn’t…oh I dunno…banning GUNS be a far more fucking sensible starting place for reducing GUN RAMPAGES? Oh – but then that might give the impression that Germany thinks guns are bad. And guns are one of their main exports and biggest industries.

  16. Piispa says:

    Of course everything effects us, from the tits on a car ad to an over-the-top exploding of the car on a Schwarzenegger movie.

    The question is do I lose my free will when I see them titties and immediately rush to a cars dealer to buy one for myself to blow it up on the next day, or could it possibly be that a kid that does those things is already troubled and insane even without those influences? Do we really want to set our standards of living by a few insane people or should we seek to treat them otherwise?

  17. LewieP says:

    I guess that will stop all potential school shooters from being able to access any violent games then. Because they won’t be able to get them online anywhere else.
    Edit: If my government told me I can no longer buy Half life 3, you can be damn sure I would find some way of getting it, legally or otherwise. Preferably listening to RATM.

  18. DarkFenix says:

    Yeah it’s pretty ironic, Germany, one of the biggest manufacturers and exporters of guns in the world, is moving to ban violent videogames, effectively naming them the source of violent crime.

  19. Zaij says:

    In other news, video game piracy in Germany skyrockets 45000%

  20. LewieP says:

    I guess that will stop all potential school shooters from being able to access any violent games then. Because they won’t be able to get them online anywhere else.

  21. Smurfy says:

    It’s cool cuz the German government is mad.

  22. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    “We HAVE to do SOMETHING! Let’s make sure on one can get firearms!” -”No! That’s way too difficult, let’s ban videogames, that’ll work”. -”Okay, that’s settled. Next week we’re discussing the ban on Supersoakers and cowboy versus indian roleplaying”

    I’m sure the whole violent videogame problem will go into the history books as “The tragedy that was started by something called Pong”.

    Seriously now, if we’ve learned anything, it is that banning something will just make people turn to shadier ways.

  23. Fat says:

    This will just increase the amount of pirating in Germany.

  24. Psychopomp says:

    You know, I am outraged…
    But Jim brought up an interesting point.

    If this *does* go through, it could be the definitive proof we need that games don’t turn us into psychopathic killers.

  25. wat says:

    l1ddl3monkey:
    Nah, this isn’t about the german armament industry (politicians would prefer if you didn’t mention Germany’s leading role as an arms exporter at all), this is about private gun ownership. Even though it isn’t widely known internationally, there are about 10 million legal privately owned firearms in Germany (one for every 8 Germans). The german gun lobby might not be highly visible, but it does have significant political influence (mostly through “Schützenvereine”, lit.: “marksmen club”).

    And that’s why you ban games first, but keep firearms legal: Because there’s no organized movement backing games.

  26. tmp says:

    It’s interesting. People love to point out twisted “moral code” when it comes to games on the US side of the pond — “ripping heads off barehanded is perfectly fine, but gods forbid there’s a flash of naked tit somewhere in the process” … well, here someone takes opposite stance for a change, says the violence is in fact worse than the naked tit, and attempts to address it in some way.

  27. panik says:

    violent video games make little johnny nazi

  28. German says:

    To further describe the situation as it is now in Germany:

    1.
    If a game is considered to be too violent it will get an 18+ rating, which in theory should be enough to keep it out of the hands of children.

    2.
    If the game is considered to be way to violent it is prohibited. This means it may not be advertised or sold openly in Germany. You can still buy these games if you are 18+, but they are not openly displayed in shops. You can also legally import them from other countries.

    3.
    Due to the second point many games that are being sold Germany have been cut by the developers because they want to sell their games in stores and of course advertise for them.

    In my opinion this should be sufficiant. For example alcohol may also not be sold to teenagers. This regulation is also not working, but whatever. Nobody suggested to prohibit alcohol. You just need higher fines for people that sell 18+ games to children.

  29. Real Horrorshow says:

    This is bad.

  30. c-Row says:

    I guess their basic idea is that by banning violent video games they only enrage what they think of as typical gamer, e.g. someone who isn’t legally allowed to vote yet anyway and from whom they won’t have to fear any repercussions. That way they don’t hurt their voting results and show the public that they “do something to deal with the problem”.

    Oh well, more Play.com orders then…

    Oh, and about their argument that playing Counterstrike made the amok runner a better shooter – if it takes him 60+ bullets to kill sixteen people, weapon training in CS can’t be that good after all.

  31. Some Guy says:

    its the food additives that are the problem, there was no violendce before them(not).

  32. Max says:

    In all honesty, Germany still hasn’t managed to learn from World War II.

    They went from one extreme to the other when neither is ideal. Don’t they realize that the rest of the free world thinks they’re overreacting?

  33. wat says:

    German: Not that it matters, because kids still get access to the games – simply by trading them in the local schoolyard.

    That’s how I got Duke Nukem 3D when I was 12, and this tradition will certainly continued. By the way, Duke3D is one of those games that you cannot even mention in Germany.

    Ubiquitous broadband internet, mobile phones with memory card slots and MP3 players with storage in the three-digit gigabyte range certainly won’t make this any harder.

  34. Funky Badger says:

    I think Britain’s a decent comparison when it comes to looking at number of school gun amoks per capita – there’s been one in my lifetime (and he wasn’t a pupil).

    That’s quite low.

    There seems to be one per year or so in Germany (and more over the last fice years or so).

    Assuming the same amount of violent videogames in both societies (actully there are less in Germany as pointed out above) – this suggests some other factor(s) are at work.

    Like, umm, the huge amount of guns in circulation?

  35. Dave says:

    @ Max: it wouldn’t surprise me if lawmakers elsewhere in the world used a German ban on violent games as one more flawed argument that they should too.

  36. Hoernchen says:

    Obviously the government is trying to increase piracy by a few thousand percent.

  37. Dingo says:

    “And that’s why you ban games first, but keep firearms legal: Because there’s no organized movement backing games.”

    Just wait. If they really ban things like Mass Effect or Fallout there will be a movement for sure.
    And yes, this ban will prevent nobody from obtaining such games. Stuff like Manhunt is pretty sick but has nothing to do with your average scifi shooter. Also there is much sicker shit on video for everybody’s renting pleasure…
    Look at Japan. They even have such weird shit as rape games. Does that make Japan a nation of rapists???

  38. ChaosSmurf says:

    Better ban violent movies and books too bro! etc.

  39. German says:

    @Wat: I know, I also played Doom and games like that when i still went to school. Bans wont keep these games out of the hands of children. Back then we didn’t even need the internet to get these games. Thanks to the internet it’s much easier today.

    What enrages me is that by prohibiting these games they piss of adults even more than children. I’m old enough, but if the government really prohibits violent games this will have serious consequences for online communities (who might become illegal if they support violent games), companies hosting gameservers in Germany, modders, distribution platforms like steam, etc.

  40. Sparvy says:

    Internet historians: Im just curious after someone mentioned Pong up there, which game was the first to feature blood of any kind? Would be interested to see where that started.

  41. Gap Gen says:

    Watching The Thick of It recently, it’s not encouraging to watch the news afterwards. It kinda does confirm a lot of what it says, e.g. ill-considered policies made by dishonest or lazy politicians.

  42. Mesic says:

    The only thing that can cure germany is an even worse holocaust in another country.

  43. ArtyArt says:

    Max, who exactly are you talking about? This whole debate is held by vote-hungry politicians (and TV stations, possibly to avoid being targeted themselves), so count me in as part of the “rest of the free world” while I’m sitting right in the middle of the country that hasn’t learned from WW2…

    Germany already has the most restrictive laws concerning violent videogames possible (apart from banning them altogether, I guess). S[n/t]uff like Manhunt isn’t even sold here at all, and even Valve are doing their worst to censor many games that are being downloaded from a German IP… can it get any more absurd?

    Piracy rates will skyrocket. How convenient that software piracy gets increased attention from publishers and their lawyers here, so if CompanyofDutyHonor32 isn’t allowed to get sold anymore, at least they can find themselves some poor teenagers they can sue. Oh well…

  44. Chemix says:

    -Guns are tools
    -Knives are tools
    -General Objects of almost any nature with decent durability can be used as tools
    -Video Games are entertainment
    -Culture is the basis for popular morality

    The only way to make sure that people can’t hurt one another is to lock them all up in straight jackets and strap them down, because when you take away the gun, you take away the knives, you take away the blunt objects, you take away the pencils, you take away just about everything that doesn’t disintegrate on contact, the body is still an effective means of harming someone else.

    The real question is, why? Why do people kill other people? I have a tendency to relate it to culture, where the value of life amounts to a sum of cash value (think about the monetary “values” that people are assigned by income, specifically the rich when mentioned on television) and physical ability, rather than the sum of their past and future emotions and the actions caused by them. We take death lightly, because we see it often, we feel that it impedes progress to linger on it, and because life comes down the a systematic series of labor times in exchange for a reduction in constant debt with the occasional vacation. When it comes down to a life that revolves around paying bills, life becomes a monetary value, which is most insignificant to someone who doesn’t really care about money, a psychopath.

  45. malkav11 says:

    The thing is, while it’s obviously a terrible idea that will screw over the gamers of Germany, in this day and age it would also be quite ineffective in actually keeping said violent videogames out of people’s hands. It’s not like they can prevent you from pirating them unless they start imposing China-style country-wide internet filters and maybe some nice low download caps to go along with.

  46. James T says:

    Can they ban her harelip?

  47. Novotny says:

    Well, as long as they’re consistent about it, I don’t see the problem. They just need to ban any other mediums with violence in them too, like films and books. And the digital media that can carry them, like internets.

    So yes: if they ban books, films, television and the internets – and a variety of sports – I think it should work just fine

  48. wat says:

    malkav11: You are correct, but that kind of thinking is quite dangerous.
    Germany has been implementing a draconian system of laws with selective enforcement over the past few years.
    Under these laws (new copyright law, new cybersecurity law, new anti-pornography laws, now the new censorship law and this ban of games) almost anybody who uses the Internet for anything could be considered guilty of some crime.

    For example, under the new cybersecurity law, owning a tool that can be used for computer crime is a crime on it’s own. Now how do you define such a tool? Well, you simply don’t. However, the way the law is written even a browser could be considered such a tool (Which is kinda funny/sad, as the German Minister of Justice publicly admitted that she doesn’t even know what this “browser” is).

    So, does that mean that the German government wants to prosecute all Internet users? Of course not. In fact when a few German IT security experts tried to turn themselves in (because each of them had a huge library of dual-use security tools), the cops weren’t interested at all.

    So, what’s the method behind this madness? Easy, it’s selective enforcement, and from a government standpoint it works like this:
    1. Introduce laws that are so badly written (imprecise, lacking definitions, etc.) that almost anybody is a criminal.
    2. Do not enforce any of these laws
    3. Once you encounter somebody you really can’t stand, you hit him with one of the laws from point 1.
    Even if your case sucks, the guy’s hardware (including any complex electronic device, from MP3 players to TV sets) will still be confiscated. He won’t see the stuff for years. Forensic identification takes time, you know. (Rumors that people who got their hardware back noticed that their system had been used as office systems in the meantime are of course greatly exaggerated).
    Call me a cynic, but what a convenient way to make annoying people shut up.

    tl;dr: An unenforceable law is always a bad law, as it enables selective enforcement.

  49. Thirith says:

    @Novotny: while I don’t agree with their decision, I think it’s not too farfetched to think that there might be a difference between media where you’re a passive observer of violence and media where you are the one being violent, albeit in virtual form.

    P.S.: I wish that those on my side of this argument (i.e. no blanket ban of violent games) wouldn’t resort to the same facile arguments as those in favour of banning games, i.e. stuff along the lines of “I played Doom when I was 8 and I never went on a murdering rampage!!!!1!1″

  50. po says:

    Video games are in no way the cause of this kind of act, although they may give ideas to someone who has been driven to the point of being suicidal, but quite frankly if your actions (or inaction) drives a person to suicide, you can’t blame that suicidal person, when they realise that having no regard for your own life, things like the law become meaningless, and you decide that justice can only be delivered by your own hands, instead of just going off somewhere quiet and hanging yourself.

    If you want to end these school killing sprees, you should end the practically institutionalised abuse of people, just because they’re different (team sports at school being a prime example).

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