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EA slams Germany for censorship

EA slams Germany for censorship

Electronic Arts has said that the German USK ratings system is nothing more than censorship and should be abandoned.

Electronic Arts has lashed out at the German regulatory and ratings body recently, saying outright that the German government should abandon the USK and move to the PEGI rating system.

Germany has some very strict laws on what can and cannot be shown in games, with a zero blood policy in place that forces many developers to create bespoke versions of their games for the German market. Other games, like Gears of War 2, just don't get released in Germany instead.

The comments come from EA Europe boss Gerhard Florin, who accused the USK of being nothing more than outright censorship and being largely redundant. Instead, he suggests that the PEGI system should be put in place instead, allowing developers and publishers more control of how their games are rated.

"What we're doing here is censorship," Florin said in an interview with Spiegel Online, "And no one complains."

"When we talk about games here it's about violence or their alleged addictiveness, and not about their cultural status. The few good studios are asking themselves why they should stay here anyway."

USK boss Marek Brunner has disagreed however and said that there are no plans to even consider moving to a new ratings system in the foreseeable future. Speaking to Eurogamer.de, he also said suggested that it was short-sighted to consider changing the USK without anticipating the effect it would have on the greater legal system through other agencies, like the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons.

The issue of violent games in Germany is certainly an important one though. Out at GamesCom 2009 recently we heard one German journalist ask Sega if there were any plans to release a toned-down version of the grisly AVP for Germany. The response was a flat no and that, if the USK rejected the game, it simply would not be available in Germany. The German journalists all shrugged and said they'd just import it from Austria.

What are your thoughts on the USK and the ratings system in your country? Let us know in the forums.

18 Comments

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stonedsurd 25th August 2009, 12:09 Quote
Quote:
[...] all shrugged and said they'd just import it from Austria.
Haha. Talk about flipping them the finger. I don't think the USK quite grasps the concept of "where there's a will, there's a way"
Quote:
Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons
Seriously, what the ****? They have a Federal department for that?
DreamCatcher 25th August 2009, 12:53 Quote
I am a Germany based PC-Gamer since the first Wing Commander.

I am not an expert but as far as I know:
Our rating system is actually quite liberal. FSK stands for "freiwillige Selbstkontrolle" which means "voluntary self control" - self control on the side of producers, be it movie, audio or game producers. On my opinion that system has worked and continues to work quite well to keep excessive violence and pornographic materiel out of media intended for a younger audience.

The mentioned "Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons" is a totally different story. They are actually the ones capable of preventing certain products from reaching the German market. They have two levels to classify a product:
1. They can put it on an index, which allows the product to be sold to adults, but a seller is not allowed to present it openly on a shelf or to advertise it, neither is the publisher nor is the related press allowed to publish even test reports.
2. They can ban it completely.
The latter is the option that I have the biggest issue with, because it actually denies me as a mature, responsible citizen the right to decide for myself weather I want to consume a certain product or not, that is censorship.

It is true though that in order to acquire a certain FSK Rating (suitable from age 6, 12, 16, 18), game makers had to remove some graphical features such as bleeding soldiers in C&C General for example (were replaced by oil spilling androids). It may have made some of the titles less cool or spectacular but I wouldn't call it censorship. At least the gameplay wasn't tampered with and as an adult I was still able to buy non-modified English versions.

The only reason I can see why EA is making such a big fuzz about it is that they do expect higher sales on some titles it they were more easily available to a younger audience seeking the added coolness.

I am rather worried about the factual prohibition described above.

And personally, I think were not bereft of too much if there is a little less violence in our media. I'd rather have my kids watch some (not too extreme) sex scenes, since that is a part of reproduction, than some of the morning cartoons showing ridiculed excessive violence...
mikeuk2004 25th August 2009, 13:01 Quote
Quote:
Other games, like Gears of War 2, just don't get released in Germany instead.

Should "instead" be at the end of that centence?
Orlix 25th August 2009, 13:08 Quote
DreamCatcher,
just the fact that the publisher needs to change the game from people to androids is censorship...
Rkiver 25th August 2009, 13:13 Quote
Don't forget the removing of nazi insignias from WW2 Soldiers in any WW2 game.....
Aterius Gmork 25th August 2009, 13:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DreamCatcher

Our rating system is actually quite liberal. FSK stands for "freiwillige Selbstkontrolle" which means "voluntary self control" - self control on the side of producers, be it movie, audio or game producers.

FSK is only for movies. Games are rated by the USK.

I was fine with the removal of blood that you are describing as has been the case in UT 2004 (or portal or Oblivion etc). What bothers me though is when the actual gameplay has been tampered with.

Ever wonder why Half Life 2 has been a bit difficult at certain points? That's because you can't throw around bodies with the gravity gun - in the German version dead soldiers disappear before they hit the ground.

What about Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: The ragdoll physics have been removed almost completely. Great.

The USK is demanding changes in EVERY DAMN GAME that is slightly more violent than Teletubbies Online. Sometimes the changes are just ridiculous, as the cut of portal, or the renaming of the nuclear bomb to aurora bomb in Command & Conquer 3.

What's the point? Protecting children from a game they are not supposed to play?
Nope, they want to win the next election. The problem: It works. Normal (aka: not gaming) people are happy about the censoring. Who cares about the few gamers who are unhappy.

EDIT:
Quote:
[...] all shrugged and said they'd just import it from Austria pirate it.
DragunovHUN 25th August 2009, 13:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DreamCatcher

Our rating system is actually quite liberal.

I think this is the first time i heard that from a german. Thanks for the laugh mate, you made my day.

Oil-spilling androids do not belong in Generals.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orlix
DreamCatcher,
just the fact that the publisher needs to change the game from people to androids is censorship...

Completely agreed. I think DreamCatcher is a bit too liberal about what counts as censorship.
Quote:
Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor.
El Rando 25th August 2009, 14:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aterius Gmork
...slightly more violent than Teletubbies Online
There's a Teletubbies online?

Anyhu, My opinion is that if it works for Germany, good and fine. As long as it doesn't effect UK laws I'm sound as a fluffen pound. If some disagree in Germany then do what the journalist said and import it ;)
Xir 25th August 2009, 14:32 Quote
...biggest problem is them not telling you.
Bought Bioshock in the "over 18 version" and it's cut...gee thx, if I'd known that, I'd have gotten it from Austria or UK.
Star*Dagger 25th August 2009, 14:54 Quote
Along with the horrible german version book covers and the even worse dubbed movies with changed names, Germany, which is otherwise quite nice, can have some conservative backwater hicks rating things.
JD_LincsUK 25th August 2009, 19:45 Quote
It is a pee-take over there.

What made me laugh my cotton socks off was changing names in films.

A good example is Die Hard, where they changed all the German "terrorist/robbers" names to English ones!

I lived there for about 20 years in total and it used to really wind me up. Now I just find it amusing. :)

Bureaucratic, do-good idiots.

I could see it coming in the UK, though - that type have been slowly but surely flushing our society down the pan ever since the liberals (most of them female, dare I add) got into more powerful positions.

Oh dear, was that a political statement? I'd better watch out for the snipper man....

JD
docodine 25th August 2009, 23:33 Quote
What was removed from Portal besides blood? I can't really think of anything offensive. :-|
Neophyte4Life 26th August 2009, 01:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by docodine
What was removed from Portal besides blood? I can't really think of anything offensive. :-|

The cake.
LordPyrinc 26th August 2009, 03:40 Quote
This is a great example of why censorship is really bad, regardless of the medium. "Good intentions" start with mild censorship, but can lead to governmental manipulation of the product.

Unfortunately, the aging members of governments worldwide still make decisions based on the world they grew up in. Society is changing so fast that our elected politicians do not have a clue what the masses really need or want.

Hell, I consider myself old and yet I am half the age of more than half of the politicians in this country.
impar 26th August 2009, 12:08 Quote
Greetings!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aterius Gmork
Ever wonder why Half Life 2 has been a bit difficult at certain points? That's because you can't throw around bodies with the gravity gun - in the German version dead soldiers disappear before they hit the ground.

Thats just weird.
leexgx 26th August 2009, 13:28 Quote
most germans just buy it from Austria to get the game that has full content, and for stream just make sure you make it in english account and your sorted

@DreamCatcher
i stopped reading it after liberal, the game will look and play **** when they remove all fun stuff if its 18 its 18 it should not be banned, just buy it from Austria so does not stop them from buying it
Aerpoweron 8th September 2009, 00:51 Quote
Hi, i'm also from Germany. I've talked on the GamesCom with a guy from Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefärdende Medien). And he was really concernd about a censorship that changes poeple into robots or mutants. In the german version of Half-Life they canged the Marines into robots. That was really rediculous. Oh, and there was no more blood, as you can imagine, robots usu oil.
Ok back to the concerns with canging humans into robots or mutants. If done so, it lowers your enemies to a lower lifeform. And you have no trouble killing them any more. Anyone remember how the Germans tryed that with the Jewish people? As you can see, it worked well. So i'm really concernd, cause i don't want this crap happen again.
I stopped long ago buying german games. I import them mostly from the us or uk. I also noticed that often the german translation is more then worse. Best example is Homeworld2. In english it is a great game, fantastic atmosphere. So they put all the text throug a translation program, and let some people read it, who never heard the original englisch speech. All the atmosphere is gone, it it is just a boring game...

Another point why german games are cencord is, the publisher want the persons at the age of 16 to buy the game. So they do some bad things to the game, so it is ratet for people at the age of 16. The publisher want to sell some more copies, so they go on with cencoring their games by themselfs. I really know some game which should only be avaiable for persons of 18 or older. I say let the game hit the index. As long as i can but it, it is ok. The only games which were forbidden in germany are Wolferstein, and Doom1 and Doom2 i think.
Valve and steam is onothe story. since they are unwilling and uncapable of implementing an working age verification system, i have to buy cencord games in germany via steam. I set my languarge to eng when i created my steam account. But via Geo IP they know i live in germany. I bought Half-Life Source for 5€. I nearly freaked out when i saw it was cencord. I have no chance of undo the trace. Thats a real shame for Valve. So i stopped using Steam, and never bought a game trough it again.

The real problem is that the government is searching for an escape goat (i hope i spelled it right) to blame the "school shootings" on. The politicians said, these people killed cause they played violent PC-games. But it was never mentioned that the news are getting more violent every day. Are the dayli bombings in Iraq and Afganistan still shocking for you? I guess not. It is the whole society, not only pc-games which can lead to "school shootings".

Enough for now :-)

I think EA should calm down, and just sell a few less copies instead of cencoring it to reach the persons from 16 to 18.
DragunovHUN 8th September 2009, 09:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerpoweron
Hi, i'm also from Germany. I've talked on the GamesCom with a guy from Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefärdende Medien). And he was really concernd about a censorship that changes poeple into robots or mutants. In the german version of Half-Life they canged the Marines into robots. That was really rediculous. Oh, and there was no more blood, as you can imagine, robots usu oil.
Ok back to the concerns with canging humans into robots or mutants. If done so, it lowers your enemies to a lower lifeform. And you have no trouble killing them any more. Anyone remember how the Germans tryed that with the Jewish people? As you can see, it worked well. So i'm really concernd, cause i don't want this crap happen again.

So you're concerned because people no longer have trouble killing robots?
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