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 »

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  1. Benjamin Ferrari says:

    Dear Friends from Germany,

    You are always welcome to come by on a visit . Our stores are open 6 days a week. We are prepared to satisfy all your gaming needs, and we have lots of cool ideas on how to spend your money.

    — Your Austrian Neighbors.

    PS: Feel free to take one of our nazi parties with you if you leave, at no additional costs. We have far more of them than we need.

    PPS: Oh dear, I see your video game ban is already in effect: http://imgur.com/cjz0F.jpg .

  2. hahaha says:

    I sadly had to read this news last week in my german newspaper as well. My reply: Relax – it’s certainly not really going too happen before the election and afterwards there is no need because the votes were casted.

  3. Heliocentric says:

    Germany, you are doing it wrong, what is the common factor with all crime? I can think of 2, people and laws. So either ban laws or ban people. But no, the law makers don’t make games and but they make laws and they might make people.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    This is kind of a response to John’s point in this post about enforcing of age ratings. The point that if age ratings are enforced, we can make whichever game we want, and nobody can complain about it. I think this is disproven, because age ratings are enforced here in Germany. Turns out, that politicians still need to appear as if they are doing something about a problem, even if the problem is over 18 years old. So they go crazy and propose the complete banning of most games. (I still support enforcing age ratings, but for other reasons)

    As for this story: I still hope that this won’t actually come through. So far they have only decided that they are going to do this. They still have to write the necessary laws and get them through whatever process it is that laws go through. Hopefully somewhere along the way there will be a public outcry. In all the news stories I have read about this, there weren’t even comments by the games industry yet.

  5. Blast Hardcheese says:

    Gratz Germany- You’re now dumber than us.

    I’m sure our last President is still handing out backrubs for whoever the leader of Germany is now.

    It’s well known that making things illegal just turns people into criminals and gives it an element of mystique for children. It’s why outright banning guns in the US would never work, because criminals would still have guns.

    Take away video games, and kids STILL HAVE GUNS. You don’t need a video game to load a gun, so where do they get this moon logic that a better educated public on gun control isn’t the answer?

    In fact the only reason we have any real amount of school shootings here is because of lax gun control, which I’m sure worked real well for the parents of the little monsters.

    Oh wait, culture of victimhood. They’re not to blame, it was video games. Right. Moving on!

    The gun makes killing easy. You don’t need the emotional drain or physical effort with killing someone with your hands (yes, I am paraphrasing from Batman: The Dark Knight). In all honesty action movies do far more of putting the gun on this pedestal of invincibility that children take to. Most kids think they can’t be harmed because of action movies, etc.

    Really the fix is just better control of gun sales (no sales to minors you idiots what the hell is wrong with you), better education on firearm safety (you can shoot a target if you can hold a gun but does a kid make the connection between target practice and shooting people? It’d be up to the parents to teach this lesson), and better gun control at home (separate ammo from the gun, keep ammo in a safe, use a trigger lock, etc).

    People that do murders like this are often narcissistic. They’re getting exactly what they want when coverage goes this far. It basically commemorates the event when they ban something. Why don’t they just name the Bill to ban video games after the little bastard?

  6. Some Guy says:

    Now there’ll only be sex left in games

  7. Novotny says:

    Thirith, you are of course right, however I would strongly argue that a Rambo film does more to glamourise one-man armies than your average violent video game.

    In fact, whilst I play these games, I now find those kind of films pretty gross, with the slow-mo footage of people taking multiple bullets to the torso etc. Having said that, Fallout 3 does it too.

    Anyways, our debating it is pretty pointless, I’m sure we’re all more or less in agreement.

  8. Psychopomp says:

    You know, I can’t help but imagine that the german government is run by a group of /b/tards, and they are merely trolling the entire country.

  9. Darth Nader says:

    So, who’s up for German Goo Girls – the RPG?

  10. armlesscorps says:

    I agree strongly with the first 2 posts.

  11. armlesscorps says:

    I hope this isnt shown on Respond! Opinion Away!

  12. Larington says:

    They’ll need to ban all the websites that allow you to download these games as well then, we all know this will only drive the gamers underground or to alternative distribution sources.

    If they really wanted to do more than political posturing, they would be promising to pledge more resources to the mental health care system… They’ll have far more success treating the 0.17% (or is it 0.017) that is ‘at risk’ than they will have by punishing the majority for the actions of a very small minority.

  13. cjlr says:

    That is just so god-damn retarded.

    But look on the bright side. This happens to EVERY new media. Let’s take a time machine… rap, tv, rock and roll, comic books, movies, jazz… The antiquated old blowhards in charge when it arrives mainstream just can’t deal with it, so it takes a generation before the last pathetic vestiges of censorship-in-everything-but-name to fade out. Freedom of expression my ass. A new zeitgeist takes over only when its opponents die of old age.

    Picture this: there’s a new entertainment craze sweeping the country. All the kids are doing it. It’s wild, its sexually charged, it’s aggressive… Can you guess what it is? Congratulations, that’s right: the waltz! Those crazy teenagers, wearing only three layers of underwear and dancing crazy foreign dances together. Because you might actually dance with the same partner throughout, and, god forbid, you’re looking at each other the whole time. And such unseemly rhythms!

    Public fornication, the proliferation of mass violence, and the downfall of decent society were the inevitable consequences. Wait, what?

  14. Tom says:

    This makes me want to scream and cry and bash my head against the table in sheer frustration at the idiocy and ignorance of humanity

    ARRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

  15. Bhazor says:

    This is my opinion on this issue.
    For additional credibility it will be expressed through a Scottish guys face.

  16. K says:

    I don’t know. Have you played Wolfenstein? I think Hitler got some pretty big ideas from that. He even looked like the end boss.

  17. Calabi says:

    I’m didnt even realise it was possible for democratic governments to be as dictatorial as this anymore.

    Have they even weighed the consequences the economic and else wise causes it may effect.

    But still it will be interesting to see what happens.

  18. N'79 says:

    And the worst part? That president who outright SUPPORTED such moves has been quite recently RE-ELECTED.

    In other words:German gamers are screwed for another 5 years (if not even forever.)

  19. The Hammer says:

    That Newswipe clip continues to amaze me. Excellent television.

  20. Inglorion says:

    Disgraceful. Fucking fascists.

  21. Heliocentric says:

    With german development of violent haulted we could actually end up with decent sex games being developed.

  22. Gorgeras says:

    Anyone remember the old joke about Tetris causing children to drop bricks from bridges?

  23. boatorious says:

    The problem is that politicians (and many others) think we are just one law away from utopia. If we just take one more liberty from the people then everything will be perfect.

  24. waffles says:

    I would be annoyed by this if i wasn’t amused that its in Germany.
    Poland must be having a ball with this.

  25. Naurgul says:

    Theory, about Greece: That law was kinda enforced for a few months and then was completely forgotten. As far as I know, on paper, all videogames are banned in Greece even now. But in practice, nobody cares.

  26. Heliocentric says:

    Poland will only think this is funny until the censorship division of the german millitary expresses germany’s need for breathing room from games.

  27. Sabre says:

    Can we petition the Bundestag to ban Germany’s Interior Ministers?

  28. Andrew Dunn says:

    Newswipe and videoGaiden clips to illustrate the issue? Good work RPS and commenters.

  29. MetalCircus says:

    Banning of vidya gaems? Mmmm, I smell an increase in piracy somewhere over Germany…

  30. Premium User Badge

    James G says:

    @Naurgul

    My understanding was that regulations at the European level had resulted in the law being suspended. (This all from the last time I researched computer and video game censorship in Europe, back when Germany was trying this move again.)

  31. lumpi says:

    First: This won’t go through. It’s not the first time ministers “demand” a law during election time. That doesn’t mean it will pass. Even the ban on the more niche group of paintball players didn’t go through.

    Second: @cliffski: I do not believe in this kind of mixing up cause and effect. I read the fascinating article as I read every opinion on this subject, but I don’t believe it is accurate.

    Every time a more modern civilization clashed with a traditional one, the latter was destroyed in a violent nightmare. For centuries, this is what we have seen. In Bhutan, the introduction of television was a clash of cultures in general, not a clash of technology (or TV programming). You can (temporally) deny the existence of violence and corruption in a small, mountainous enclave. But if you introduce its people to it in a burst of information overload… well, no wonder this ended in a disaster.

  32. undead dolphin hacker says:

    Ban unhappy teenage boys imo.

  33. Hypocee says:

    Finally. It’s about time they stopped beating around the bush. No more delays for negotiating with their de facto censorship board or palette-shifting enemies into ‘aliens’ or ‘zombies’, and I’m sure the ban will be about as effective as a chocolate saucepan; win-win. I’m sure the awesome indies working there have a grasp on the idea of pseudonyms.

  34. Bear says:

    Personally, I blame oxygen for violent behavior. ALL DEATHS OCCUR AFTER SOMEONE BREATHED OXYGEN. BAN IT NOW !!!

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

    I love you too ;)

  35. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    Alright I have decided: This is just indirect campaigning.
    There are elections in Germany in September. And their proposal is to make this a law before that. Which is obviously completely unrealistic. Had they said that this should be done sometimes next year, I would have been concerned. But before the elections? Not a chance. They just want to look like they are doing something after that school shooting. But even they aren’t taking this serious if they don’t even take the time they would need.

    After the elections, this will be completely forgotten.

  36. Naurgul says:

    James G, I’m not sure if that’s the whole story. I distinctly remember hearing about Greece paying fines to European courts because of that law. If it was officially suspended there surely would be no reason for the EU to do that, right?

  37. Ziv says:

    at least this time he played normal games. you usually hear- “he played second life and quake 3 and that’s turned him into a mass murderer, not the drug abuse or the other kids that humiliated him – it was second life that killed those children.”

    NOT!

  38. Ban says:

    Newswipe FTW!

  39. Rei Onryou says:

    Look at number of games players in Germany. Look at number of violent incidents that have occurred by games players. The % of gamers that are violent would be insignificant.

    Look at number of available guns/houses with guns/gun owners. Look at number of firearm incidences. The % of firearm incidents would be far higher. Coincidence? Of course!

    In conclusion, ban table-tennis.

  40. MetalCircus says:

    My fingers make me press buttons on the keyboard and virtual men die

    I say we should ban our own fingers, lest we destroy planet earth with them.

  41. Beastman says:

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

    Not really. As of now, there’s already no proof whatsoever that video games do make people violent, but that doesn’t prevent the people in charge from constantly talking as though it’s been proved that they do.

    Even if Germany does ban all violent video games and it does nothing, they (and other countries) will just slightly change their tune to insinuate that video games were just part of a larger problem. But they’re still bad and need to stay banned, natch.

  42. ToSt says:

    Maybe it should be pointed out that this isn’t the first time the state interior ministers suggest banning of violent video games in Germany (I think they did it in 2004(?) and 2005(?), too).

    It won’t actually happen. The only reason for this are the elections this fall.

    Still, this is problematic because it causes uncertainty for businesses and distracts from the real causes of these shootings (whatever they may be).

  43. clive dunn says:

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    BAN THE BACON IN MY FRIDGE
    BAN MY COCK
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    JUST FUCKING BAN IT!
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    ……………

  44. wat says:

    ToSt: Problem is that this time, it’s *all* Interior Ministers at the state level *and* at the federal level. Now, we don’t know how much support this thing really has internally, but if it is really supported by all the Ministers in question, then there is a very real probability that this will actually happen.

    The fact that the “Grand Coalition” holds an absolute majority in both parliaments will see to that, because it enables them to pass new laws within a week or so. Often they cannot easily use that power because of internal dissent, but in this case it seems that there were no objections amongst the ministers. And in Germany, 90% of representatives sit in the back row and just vote as they are told by the party (a phenomenon called “party discipline”), so a handful of people agreeing could be sufficient to push this through.

    And I’m sure having an actual law before the election makes these people look better than merely promising a law, especially if it’s about something that you can bash very easily.

  45. MedO says:

    N’79: The president is not elected directly by the people but by the Bundesversammlung, which consists of the members of the Bundestag and additional represantatives of the different states. Also, he has a lot less influence than presidents of most other countries, even though he is formally the head of state.

    To be blunt, my opinion of the problem is that our representatives are too old, and many of them are out of touch with the culture of our generation (and thus, to no small degree, with reality.) The average age of the members of our two biggest parties is around 55.

    It probably doesn’t help that older politicians are likely to have a lot more experience in pushing their opinion.

  46. Tei says:

    In 200 years, this will look like this:

    There are violent books!… BURN THE BOOKS!.

    It look to me already like this.

  47. dhex says:

    “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.”

    sorry for the aside, but…

    this is something of an aside, but the advertised mind is perhaps not the best book to base thoughts about advertising on. it’s great if you’re a consultant – i’ve come across a few who were namedropping that between all sorts of “viral” proposals – but patently useless otherwise.

    if you’re a consultant, it’s amazing because it makes it seem like you engage in pure magic. a throwback to the early web 1.0 days when rushkoff was a corporate lecturer (his current hairshirting is interesting as an exercise in flying from reason as a form of contrition) and everyone was sprinkling presentations with nlp droppings.

    there are things you can “scientize” for fun and profit, and things where research actually helps. hell, no one can actually give you a demonstrable model for ROI on advertising or PR efforts because some things resist being turned into numbers.

    people like that book because it feeds their prejudices (advertising is evil/powerful) or because it feeds their wallet (i’ll make your advertising evil/powerful) but like all marketing fads, should be considered in the same light one would approach phrenology with.

    edit: similar faddishness arose from the self-serving dreck of “lovemarks”.

  48. Dracko says:

    lol guns are evil

  49. Lack_26 says:

    It may not be just video games but the pace of society in general, there was an article I read the other day

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/twitter/5429167/24-hour-news-streams-and-constant-Twitter-updates-causing-brain-overload.html

    I think this probably has some reference, especially to do with our general lack of empathy. I mean we hear about another 1000 dead in so and so place, and most of us genuinely don’t care.

  50. EyeMessiah says:

    I want to second Helio’s suggestion re. banning people. I think that will help A LOT.

    Re. playing computer games really having a physiological effect. Of course it does. Good games are indeed exciting. They might make me want to leap out of my chair and ninja kick one of my co-workers out of a nearby window. That isn’t the issue though. There are all sorts of things that might make me think about ninja kicking someone out of a window. Even if you banned them all I would almost certainly stumble upon the idea simply by an effort of imagination.

    The core of the issue isn’t whether or not you could prevent me from thinking about violence by depriving me of violent stimulation. Its whether or not I am able to moderate my behaviour in such a way that I don’t actually ever cross that line. Most people don’t find this hard at all.

    Most gamers are capable of literally gorging themselves on incredible ultraviolence without ever actually getting into a violent exchange with another human being.

    A tiny, tiny minority of people for a variety of reasons aren’t able to manage their behaviour in this way. I suspect that even in the absence of video games, rock and roll music, pornography, beauty product advertising, drugs, radical literature and starbucks these same people would still manage to dream up some pretty fucked up shit ALL ON THEIR OWN, and then fail to prevent them selves from actually going out and doing it.

    I mean what about that guy who pulled the tails of all those cats? I don’t think I played that game.

    Well, if he had been sticking them on the end of shot-guns then I would have known what he had been playing…