Der Kampf

Tim Kretschmer.

Due to Tim’s playing Counter-strike, Far Cry 2, and other killerspiele, as German politicos enjoy calling them, Germany is wanting to become even more stringent on how it is handling videogames.

While growing up I recall speaking with my German relatives about the fact that blood was commonly edited out of their games. These days my brother is less than pleased with the fact that his games are heavily censored. Germany, still riddled with guilt over the Holocaust, seems to want to go in the exact opposite direction with regards to violence (which is quite curious considering they still allow xenophobia and racism in their culture, particularly against those from Turkey).

The call has now been put forth by Joachim Herrmann of the CSU (Christian Social Union) to ban such games. As he puts it: “Wir müssen uns jetzt endlich aufraffen und den Mut haben, die brutalsten Spiele zu verbieten. Das ist keine Frage der Medien- und Kunstfreiheit mehr” (Der Spiegel). Translation? We must finally pull ourselves together and have the courage to ban the most brutal games. This is no longer a question of freedom of the media or of art.

He’s not alone. We also have Hans-Dieter Schwind, President of the German Foundation for Crime, calling for the same (Heise Online). Mechthild Ross-Luttman, the Minister for Social affairs, attempting to make WoW an 18+ game (Welt Online). A complete ban on killerspiele, as proffered by Hans-Peter Uhl of the CSU (Der Spiegel). As the shirt to the left, found here, states, I don’t vote for game killers.

Both GamePolitics and L.B. Jeffries have already presented much information on this, as well as asking other poignant questions (should we ban Catcher in the Rye because Mark David Chapman read it obsessively before shooting John Lennon?). What intrigues me is Germany’s particular reaction, especially as the largest country in the EU, the country with the second most school shootings in the world, and the one with the harshest videogame restrictions in the EU.

Germany has a chip on its shoulder.

The problem is as I’ve alluded to earlier: Germany still is making amends for the atrocities of World War II, which, while understandable and commendable, is blinding it to present-day reality. It is beneficial to not bury the past and ignore it as if it did not happen, but it is detrimental to fixate upon it so that growth becomes stagnant.

Which is why this makes no sense. The German politicians are essentially asking Germany to bury its head in the sand when it comes to these games. I can see tighter restrictions on sales of the games (though I believe that’s the parents’ job, not the government’s), but I fail to see how the outright banning of this media seeks to do anything but ignore the issue by placing it out of reach. The last I checked, putting a toy on the top shelf does not deter nor disinterest all children anyway. Those who have become fixated will find a means.

Throughout history we have glorified violence. Through epic poetry, song, theater, and the writing of our history we look at battle, the glory of victory, and the honor that lies therein. Today it has saturated to our media in the form of film, music, and yes, videogames. To want to put a stop to that through censorship? It does not change the fact that it exists. Addressing the issue by steadfastly not addressing it creates more problems than it seeks to alleviate.

It seems to me what we should be questioning more is the culture that pervaded Tim’s household. His father had how many guns? They went to practice together starting at what age? He was considered a spoiled brat who acted haughty toward others in table tennis competitions? Videogames, in this instance, seem merely one more element in the troubled psyche of this youth. The elements were already present and we’re to believe his playing these games somehow told him to pick up a gun and shoot people?

This is not the case of some innocent, likable teen picking up a shooter and deciding to go on an Amoklauf. There was a predisposition, and claiming to know that any one element over the other seems one purely made out of political design.

Therefore, the fact that Germany has the second-highest rate of school shootings seems to have more akin with the fact that it’s also the most populous country in Europe. So if Germany really sees violent games as a problem, then I demand they pay closer attention to all of its media. Shall we now ban Shakespeare’s tragedies and histories? They’re quite bloody and can give the wrong impression of killing. Will we no longer teach anything but social history in school, forgoing military history? Can we no longer watch the majority of films that are released, which feature violent images?

To start the path of censorship in this direction has no end, and does nothing to alleviate the problem. Instead of treating the symptoms of a violence-obsessed culture, it might help to address the cause in the individuals. Yet, due to Germany’s harrowing past, I have a feeling that there will be attempts to make sure that no one can see their youth as possibly obsessed with such images. Which seems counter-intuitive, considering how restrictive the Third Reich was, where even thoughts of homosexual acts could land you in a concentration camp or see an outright execution.

Too bad they don’t realize that youth across the world are and have been taught to appreciate violence and what it can accomplish, and it’s only our ability to reasonably question and give voice in a free environment that even allows us a chance to speak against it. The solution is not closing our eyes and shutting our mouths.

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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3 Responses to Der Kampf

  1. miracle2k says:

    I’m not convinced that this has a lot to do with Germany’s past.It’s not like nobody in the US calls for videogame bans, after a shooting or otherwise. The US just has the first amendment and a free speech culture that makes the chances of it ever happening remote. On the other hand, good luck convincing a German that mandatory age ratings could be free speech issue.Free speech just was never as big here, or for that matter, in Europe in general.

  2. Scott Juster says:

    Excellent post. I’d also add that banning something is often the best way to make people want it. Humans love that forbidden fruit!

  3. Denis Farr says:

    @miracle2k: The difference with the U.S. is its Puritan past, which creates some rather annoying headaches. Violence is only acceptable when the government sells it as so, but the U.S. has those who are always up in arms over how it’s presented on television, though in a different manner than Europe, I feel.I feel it has something to do with Germany’s past just owing to the fact that the guilt seems to still shadow a lot of their culture.Mandatory age ratings are one thing, but full censorship? While it has a possibility of happening, I still consider it a damned shame.@Scott: Yes, very much so. Especially with today’s internet capabilities, it’s not like many people won’t be able to get their hands on it anyway. Policing the internet is difficult to do, and I don’t see Germany going quite the way of China.

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