Luxembourg Legislates Against Violent Games

May 12, 2009 -

We don't have many details on this one, but The Station Network reports that new legislation before the Parliament of tiny Luxembourg seeks to block sales of violent video games to minors:

New legislation was introduced through parliament yesterday meant to protect minors by punishing online sexual predators and violent video game makers...

“It's very bad that people make money by selling games where you can decapitate people to minors,” [Minister for Justice Luc] Frieden said. Those who provide games and movies that are too violent to young people will be condemned. Judges will determine the degree of violence.

While it is unclear what is driving the current legislative push, we note that Luxembourg is only a few hundred miles from Winnenden, Germany, the site of the horrific March 11th school shooting rampage.

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In Wake of School Rampage, Germany Bans Paintball, Laser Tag

May 11, 2009 -

Violent video games, a frequent political target in Germany, once again came under fire following the horrific school shooting in Winnenden on March 11th.

While there were renewed calls for a complete ban on violent games, it was, surprisingly, paintball and laser tag which, ultimately, will find themselves outlawed.

The Local reports that violators of the upcoming bans could find themselves on the wrong end of a €5,000 (about US$6,800) fine. Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy head of the conservative Christian Union parliamentary group, commented:

We have agreed on reasonable changes that will mean more security without over-regulating hobby marksmen and hunters... [Paintball and laser tag] simulate killing.

The Winnenden case also sparked a debate on gun control in Germany. The BBC has more.

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Grand Theft Childhood Author Talks Violent Games, School Shootings

April 13, 2009 -

Dr. Cheryl Olson (left), co-author of Grand Theft Childhood, was interviewed about the video game violence issue recently on German television.

The game violence debate, as GamePolitics readers know, has been raging anew in Germany since last month's horrific school shooting rampage in Winnenden.

Andreas Garbe, who conducted the interview, provides an English translation on his blog. Among other topics, Dr.Olson spoke about the oft-made claim that violent games motivate school shooters:

There is so much publicity about school shootings in the US, Germany and other countries. But a review of the data shows that this type of violence is not increasing – it’s the media coverage of the violence that has gone way up. So, people believe that school violence is much more common than it is. (Your child is actually more likely to be struck and killed by lightning than to be shot at school.)

The Secret Service and the FBI in the US have studied school shootings in an effort to identify a “profile” of potential shooters and prevent these tragedies. They were not able to find a profile. The only thing these shooters had in common was male gender and (often) a history of treated or untreated depression...

Dr. Olson also disputed the claim that school shooters learn to fire a weapon by playing violent video games:

Also, we researched the issue of whether it’s possible to learn to shoot from a video game. Experts told us that it’s actually not difficult to shoot a gun at someone who is not moving, is not shooting back at you, and is not far away from you – even if you have little experience with guns. Media reports on a few school shootings in the U.S. said that these boys had never fired a real gun, but learned only from video games; this turned out not to be true. They had practiced with real guns...

But Dr. Olson believes that video game ratings could be more useful:

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Bavaria's Interior Minister Likens Violent Games to Drugs, Kiddie Porn

April 3, 2009 -

In the aftermath of last month's horrific school shooting rampage in Winnenden, criticism of violent video games by German government officials has been on the rise.

In the latest political attack, Bavarian Minister of the Interior Joachim Herrmann (left), a frequent critic of violent games, upped the ante by likening such games to illegal drugs and child pornography.

Herrmann made the charge in a Tuesday press release (Google translation) which was issued to coincide with the government-sponsored German Games Award as well as a video game conference in Munich.

German GamePolitics reader David Ziegler provides this translation:

The statement contains the usual accusations that "such games are one of the causes for youth violence and also for school shootings, where images from killer games become reality",and that "more and more children are getting mired in this virtual world of violence", so that "they have no time left for school or job training,  and are lost to our society".

 

However, this time, he's taking it a bit further. The last sentence states: "In regards to their harmful effects, [violent video games] are on the same level as child pornography and illegal drugs, the ban on which rightly is unquestioned"

However, a second German official, Commissioner for the New Media Thomas Jarzombek, criticized Herrmann's remarks:

The comparison is completely inappropriate... anyone making such statements is unqualified to participate in any further debate [regarding the] protection of minors from harmful media.

GamePolitics reader tibuka, also German, adds:

[Herrmann's] statement was released on the same day as the first German Videogame Awards ceremony took place in Munich. In return, all important German game-associations (G.A.M.E., BIU, ESB) released statments of their own, demanding an apology.

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Germany: Extra Age Warning Labels on Mature Games?

March 31, 2009 -

In the aftermath of this month's horrific Winnenden school shooting, criticism of violent video games in Germany has hit a fever pitch.

Although there are no details on the origin of this photo, it appears to show an extra age warning label slapped onto Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Germany's official USK label can be seen at lower left.

Are German retailers doubling up on age warnings?

Via: GoNintendo

Thanks to: Sharp-eyed GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen...

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In Wake of Shooting Rampage, Stuttgart Gaming Competition Nixed

March 25, 2009 -

As Germany continues to come to grips with the horrific March 11th shooting rampage that left 16 people dead, violent video games have come under renewed scrutiny by elected officials and others.

In the latest news, a gaming competition scheduled for March 27th in Stuttgart has been canceled. Winnenden, where 17-year old killer Tim Kretschmer began his rampage, is not far from Stuttgart.

As reported by Heise Online, the Electronic Sports League (ESL) match would have featured competitive play of first-person shooters Counter-Strike 1.6 and Counter-Strike Source as well as real-time strategy classic Warcraft 3.

An Associated Press report which appeared on the day of the rampage indicated that Kretschmer was a Counter-Strike player.

Stuttgart Mayor Wolfgang Schuster (left) cited the school shooting as the reason behind the cancellation. Although GamePolitics is working from a Google translation, it appears that, in canceling the ESL match, Schuster was concerned for the feelings of the families and friends of the shooting victims.

GP: Thanks to GamePolitics reader tibuka for the tip...

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Report: German President Backs Ban on Violent Video Games, Movies

March 24, 2009 -

The fallout from this month's horrific school shooting in Germany continues with President Horst Koehler (left) backing a call to ban violent video games and movies, according to AFP.

The news service reports that Koehler made his comments on Saturday at a memorial service in Winnenden, where the rampage began. More than 7,500 people were in attendance, including families of some victims of the shooter, 17-year old Tim Kretschmer.

From Koehler's remarks:

All Germany mourns with you... Each child is born innocent, and when a child dies, it is hope and the future which dies too... [there should be restrictions on] the innumerable films and videogames of extreme violence, with their display of dead bodies...

Earlier, families of five victims had written to Koehler and Chancellor Angela Merkel, demanding that violent video games be banned and teens restricted from access to guns:

We want something to change in this community, and we want to help so that there can be no second Winnenden... We want killergames to be banned. Games, whether on the Internet or on the PC, in which the goal is to kill as many people as possible deserve to be forbidden. The same goes for all violent games which are, in their structure and presentation, very realistic and very bloody.

GP: Thanks to GamePolitics Forum mod Hannah for the translation of the remarks by the victims' families.

UPDATE: A German-speaking GP reader believes that Kohler's remarks do not go as far as to call for a ban on violent games, although the AFP report indicates otherwise. There is a lively discussion on this in the comments section - worth a read.

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In Wake of German Rampage, Harvard Crimson Urges Politicians to Look at Guns, Not Games

March 23, 2009 -

Violent video games have been under fire in Germany following the horrific school shooting carried out by a 17-year old earlier this month.

But while some German political and law enforcement officials have called for bans on violent games, the Harvard Crimson urges the government not to rush a judgment against the medium.

Instead, suggests an editorial, political officials' efforts would be better channeled toward keeping real guns, not virtual ones, away from toubled youth:

Few crimes are more disturbing than violent murders at schools... In the aftermath [of the recent German rampage], a call has gone out to remove violent video games from store shelves. Banning video games or enforcing a blanket social restriction, however, is not the answer.

After a tragedy such as this, video games often receive immediate scrutiny... Studies may have found corollary evidence linking violent games to violent behavior, but... correlation does not equal causation, and there is no convincing evidence of a causal effect here. There are simply too many lurking variables—socially awkward teenagers may play violent video games, but so do many perfectly happy teens. We cannot prove that playing the games somehow morphs teens into serial killers.

Many people are concerned and look to lawmakers to respond. We must be reasonable, however, in our expectations. There will always be sociopaths and oddballs... We cannot hope to make every single person happy or non-violent. Exaggerating the link between video games and teen violence in this case smacks more of political ploy than effective measure...

More of the weight of such crimes must fall on the parents and others who leave such weapons in reach... Stricter penalties and regulations on gun sales could help keep such weapons out of troubled hands, but, as long as licensed guns are available, we must work harder to keep them secure.

Head of German Police Union Calls For Ban on Violent Video Games

March 22, 2009 -

The head of Germany's police union in the state of Hesse has called for a ban on violent video games in the wake of a horrific school shooting earlier this month.

Echo Online cites comments made by Heini Schmitt, head of the Hessen German Police Union (DPolG):

It is known that in every situation in which a violent rampage (Amoklauf) has occurred, the perpetrator has had a remarked addiction to so-called killergames. The manner of the deed is astonishingly similar to virtual examples.

 

For him, the fact that roughly a third of children and youths "regularly and addictively escape into a virtual world" sets off alarm bells. Age restrictions for such games are often ignored.  There is admittedly no proof "that these frequent escapes into virtual killerworlds can contribute to such insane deeds", said Schmitt, "But neither can the role killergames be completely dismissed." 

 

When a chance to remove a probable cause exists, it must be used, insisted the chief of the national police union. "The world would be no poorer if there were no more killergames."

GP: Thanks to GamePolitics Forum mod Hannah for the translation!

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German Game Developers Blast Retailer's Decision to Drop 18+ Games

March 20, 2009 -

As GamePolitics reported yesterday, German retailer Galeria Kaufhof is dropping 18+ video games and movies from its inventory in the wake of last week's horrific school shooting.

Reuters has reaction to the move from Stephan Reichart, who heads G.A.M.E., a trade association which represents German game developers:

I think (Kaufhof's decision) is a complete overreaction... it borders on impulsive hysteria. It would be sufficient if retailers made sure their cashiers don't sell this material to young people.

Since 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer's rampage, reports have emerged indicating that he played the first-person shooters Counter-strike and Far Cry 2.

German Anti-game Backlash Spawns T-shirt, Stops Game Sales

March 19, 2009 -

UPDATED

Some GamePolitics readers have alerted me that our original translation of the German shirt was flawed. It actually reads, I choose no game killers, indicating that gamers won't vote for German politicians who seek to ban violent video games.

That's an important distinction over our original translation.

Thanks to longtime GP reader David Ziegler and our own ace forum mod Hannah for the correction!

-----------------

The blurb beneath the shirt reads (as translated by Google):

With this shirt you can clear position against the one-sided condemnation of gamers as a potential running amok through the established parties.

Amoklauf (running amok) is used in German to describe school shootings.

In related news, a pair of German retailers have stopped selling 18-rated video games and movies. German website PC Games reports that Galeria Kaufhof will no longer carry titles such as Resident Evil 5, GTA IV, Killzone 2 and Far Cry 2. It has been reported that Kretschmer played Far Cry 2 on the eve of his murderous rampage.

GamePolitics regular Soldat Louis (who alerted us to these new developments) also reports that German retailer Saturn is dropping 18+ games as well.

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In Wake of Rampage, German Pol Calls for WoW to be 18+ Rated

March 18, 2009 -

First-person shooters Counter-strike and Far Cry 2 have already come in for mention in relation to last week's horrific rampage shooting in Germany.

But World of Warcraft, not one of the usual suspects in the video game violence debate, has now been thrown into the mix by a German politician.

Welt Online reports that Germany's Minister for Social Affairs Mechthild Ross-Luttmann (left) has turned her attention to WoW:

Ross-Luttmann... aims to achieve a general age restriction for addictive computer games. World of Warcraft, for example – available to minors at the age of 12 – might in the near future only be sold to adults. In addition to this, parents need to be further sensibilized [sic]. “Parents must know what danger potential exists in their children’s bedrooms,” Ross-Luttmann said.

Computer game expert and author of "Digital Paradise" Andreas Rosenfelder is rather skeptical about demands like this. “I don’t see a connection between digital role playing games like World of Warcraft and shooting sprees,” he said. World of Warcraft is a game set in medieval times in which the protagonists can take on the roles of dwarfs, elves and wizards. There is no shooting in this game.

"In heated debates there can easily be some confusion,“ Rosenfelder said.

Ross-Luttmann also hopes to begin a secret shopper program in order to evaluate video game rating enforcement by German retailers.

Via: GameCulture

Report: German School Shooter Played Far Cry 2 on Eve of Rampage

March 15, 2009 -

Earlier this week it was reported that 17-year-old German rampage shooter Tim Kretschmer was a fan of the first-person shooter Counter-Strike. In the past, video game violence critics have sought to link Counter-Strike to school shootings in both Europe and the United States.

New reports suggest that Kretschmer played another popular FPS, Far Cry 2, on the night before he killed 15 people and himself. In the U.K., the Times reports:

The teenage gunman spent the night before his spree playing a violent video game in which a heavily armed mercenary tracks down and kills an arms dealer, police revealed yesterday... Tim Kretschmer spent from 7.30pm to 9.40pm playing Far Cry 2, in which the player takes on the role of the killer.

Remarkable parallels emerged between the video game and the 17-year-old’s rampage. In the game it is essential to hijack cars to move around. Kretschmer hijacked a car... Characters in the game, which is made by the French company Ubisoft... wear black camouflage uniforms – the clothing Kretschmer wore on Wednesday.

Most sinister of all, Far Cry 2’s killer uses a Beretta 92 handgun, the weapon fired 112 times by Kretschmer [GP: Actually, the player controls a number of different weapons in the game]. The game... includes sequences in which the aiming, firing and reloading of a Beretta are portrayed in vivid detail. It also rewards players who shoot their victims in the head, the style of killing chosen by Kretschmer.

The Times quotes video game critic Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Grossman on the supposed influence of violent shooting games:

You can see their influence in the way these school shooters aim and shoot accurately and move from one target to the next, moving through people dispassionately.

But Walter Hollstein, a sociologist with the Council of Europe, disagreed:

It’s nonsense to assume they turn adolescents into school shooters. A variety of factors, such as helplessness, anger and loss of control, must come together for them to become the trigger, but the games themselves don’t make anyone a killer.

In additional news related to Kretschmer's rampage, Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a tightening of Germany's gun laws.

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In Europe, Violent Games Under Fire in Wake of German School Massacre

March 12, 2009 -

Following the shooting rampage carried out yesterday by 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer in Southern Germany, calls have been renewed for government restrictions on violent video games.

GamePolitics is thankful to longtime European GP reader Soldat Louis for steering us to German language sources, including this Google-translated segment from Heise:

The President of the German Foundation for Crime, Hans-Dieter Schwind, calls... for a total ban on violent computer games, and a further tightening of the arms law. The criminologist said that the 17-year-old on the run even further to have done is a behavior the young people in games like Counter-Strike or Crysis could learn...

The Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann has... expressed demand for a ban on so-called killer games renewed... he said, it generally must be clearly said that the games were available, the obvious just in young people cutting inhibitions...

Soldat Louis also reports:

"I've just learnt that in Strasbourg, European representatives voted a resolution in order to prevent retailers to sell adult-rated games to minors."

Romandie News has the story in French. GP's Google translation follows:

In a report prepared for a long time and voted Thursday by an overwhelming majority, the European Parliament calls for common strategy is developed at EU level providing for "severe sanctions" for retailers who sell adult games to minors, or owners of Internet cafes that allow children to play games unsuitable for their age group...
 

"Of course there are also many games of great pedagogical value. The important thing is to avoid the frigid bad games in the hands of children", commented at the end of voting the Social German Democrat Evelyne Gebhardt.

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Report: German Rampage Shooter Was a Counter-Strike Player

March 11, 2009 -

Tim Kretschmer, the German teenager whose shooting rampage left 16 people dead earlier today, was a fan of the first-person shooter Counter-Strike, according to an early report from the Associated Press:

A 17-year-old who would give only his first name, Aki, said he had been studying this year with the shooter at a private business school, and described him as a quiet, reserved person.

 

Aki said the two played poker together, both in person and online, as well as a multiplayer video game called "Counter-Strike" that involves killing people to complete missions.

 

"He was good," Aki said.

Meanwhile, UK newspaper Telegraph reports that Kretschmer was experienced with weapons:

A former classmate said... "The only thing which stands out is that Tim was always very good with weapons. He mainly shot air weapons firing plastic balls, but the house had several gun cabinets occupying square metres of walls, mainly air guns."

 

"He was a pretty good shooter. He used to shoot in a forest behind his house. Sometimes we'd have air gun battles in the summer."

Another student told the AP that Kretschmer seemed troubled:

Sabienne Boehm, 12, said she recently met the shooter through a friend, and that he had shown her a note three weeks ago that he then sent to his parents.

 

"He wrote to his parents that he's suffering and he can't go on," she said.

GP: Video game violence is an ongoing topic of discussion among German political officials. Today's events will almost certainly spur additional debate on the topic.

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Report: Cologne Declaration Targets Violent Games in Germany

December 22, 2008 -

A coalition of German citizens has published an anti-game violence position paper that is being referred to as the Cologne Declaration.

The news comes by way of David Ziegler, a longtime GamePolitics reader from Germany. Ziegler writes that the declaration was issued in response to the German Culture Council's recent recognition of video games as cultural assets.

The Cologne Declaration argues that violent games are harmful to children as well as to the building of a peaceful society. Several prominent German social scientists have signed on to the edict, which specifically refers to Counter-strike, DOOM 3, Crysis, Call of Duty 4 and Grand Theft Auto IV as "killer games" and "landmines for the soul."

The document revives the notion that shooting games were developed by the U.S. military in order to condition recruits to kill and asserts that violent games further the aims of the "military-industrial-media complex." Researchers who have defended games are labeled as "collaborators and accomplices" of the video game industry by the declaration, which calls for the government to end state support for game development and ban violent games. The document concludes with:

We won't allow our children to be turned into killing machines on real and virtual battlefields.

GP: The "landmines for the soul" line has been used before by the German Society for Scientific Person-Centred Psychotherapy (GwG). The Cologne Declaration appears on the GwG website.

The claim that violent games are used by the U.S. military to desensitize recruits to killing was originally put forth by violent game critic Lt. Col. (ret.) David Grossman.  ABC newsman John Stossel disputed that notion in his 2006 book Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity.

The GwG's assertion that violent games are designed to further the aims of the "military-industrial-media complex" sounds similar to the views of fringe political figure Lyndon LaRouche here in the United States.

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EA: Dead Space Wasn't Banned in Germany, After All

December 17, 2008 -

From the Told Ya So Dept:

In the January issue of Game Informer there is an interview with EA's Glen Schofield, executive producer of Dead Space. Since the game shipped, Schofield has been upped to general manager of EA Redwood Shores.

The interview is worth reading for a couple of reasons. First, because Dead Space is a terrific game (although not selling especially well, unfortunately).

But what really caught our eye were Schofield's comments regarding supposed censorship of the game. GamePolitics readers may recall that we created a bit of a flap in September by calling B.S. on an EA community manager's claim that Dead Space had been banned in Germany, Japan and China (see: Dead Space Ban in Three Countries? We're Not Buying It).

That was then. This is now. Here's what Schofield told GI:

Game Informer: You had some problems with the game being banned in Germany, Japan and Korea.

Schofield: Germany finally came around, because the bottom line is that the take it into a whole context... At the end of the day, Germany said they would take the game untouched, which is fantastic. I was very surprised with Japan. In finding out exactly the reasons why, it kind of makes sense. There is a cultural difference dealing with the dead. They just had something that we could not overcome and we didn't want to compromise the game. Hell, [Takashi] Miike is the king of horror over there, and if you watch any of his films they are frickin' insane. So, for us to get banned, I was a bit surprised.

GP: So, as we speculated in September, there was never a Dead Space ban in Germany. As to the other countries, EA doesn't even sell boxed product in China due to piracy concerns. Note that the original EA claim involving China somehow morphed into a Korean ban, with no explanation. And, unfortunately, Schofield doesn't address Korea (or China) in his response to Game Informer's question.

Regarding Japan, as we reported in September, EA only sells PC titles there, not console games. There is a PC version of Dead Space, of course, so a Japanese ban is theoretically possible. But we question Schofield's sketchy explanation of "a cultural difference dealing with the dead." Lotsa dead people in the Resident Evil series, after all. Unfortunately, Game Informer did not push Schofield to elaborate.

What's most troubling in all of this is the suspicion that EA may have leaked the three-country ban rumor simply to create some pre-release buzz around Dead Space. As I have noted before, from his opening remarks at E3, Schofield hyped the game's level of violence. Sitting in the cheap seats, it seemed like the touting of the blood and gore was part of the Dead Space marketing plan. That's EA's choice, of course, and Dead Space surely wouldn't be the first game sold that way. But if the publisher - or its minions - then proceeded to put out an apocryphal story that the game had been banned, that's something entirely different. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in September, a pair of in-the-know types at EA failed to respond to my requests for clarification on the supposed Dead Space censorship.

Three months later we find out that there was no German ban, Schofield doesn't address China/Korea at all, and the explanation for the alleged Japanese ban doesn't make a great deal of sense. What's a newsie to think?

Hey, don't get me wrong. Dead Space is a good game. It's the media manipulation expansion pack that we could do without.

UPDATE: In comments to this story, GP reader fug4z1 writes that Dead Space is not banned in Japan, either:

Just want to say that from personal experience, there was no Dead Space ban whatsoever in Japan, either official or "indirect" due to refusal to rate the game or whatever; both console and PC versions could be found in shops [in Akihabara, Tokyo] on the release day. There were even displays where you could play the game, both in-store and also just outside the store on the street (so potentially children could get their hands on this murder simulator -- the horror the horror, won't someone think of them etc). My PC version is labeled as "Asia-Pacific Edition" and there is no rating label or icons anywhere on the box. Last week in one of the imported game shops [again in Akiba] I noticed a printed [in English] label that was added on the display copy on the shelf, warning about the violence and blood in the game etc -- the game is still on sale as before. (Yawn.) By the way, on the weekend of the release, the game was even sold out in one of the shops. Now you can find it all over.

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German Activist Calls EA a "Pig of a Company" ...Plus Detailed Report on Anti-violence Conference

November 27, 2008 -

It may be Turkey Day here in the United States, but the sister of a prominent German video game violence critic has termed Electronic Arts "that pig of a company" at a conference in Munich.

As reported by gamer.tm, Regina Pfeiffer made the remarks at the Computer Game and Violence conference late last week. Ms. Pfeiffer is the sister of Christian Pfeiffer, the head of Lower Saxony’s Criminological Research Institute (KFN). Regina Pfeiffer also works at KFN. According to the report, she was frustrated in her efforts to sue EA over a violent game (Dead Space?) because the publisher is not headquartered in Germany.

EA exec Martin Lorber fired back at Pfeiffer, saying:

Should Mrs. Regina Pfeiffer have actually lost her composure to the point of describing Electronic Arts as being a ‘a pig of a company’, then I can only recommend that she apologises in full – at least, [she should] if she wishes to be taken seriously again in the future...

The [conference] organisers had no interest in holding discussions with the people who manufacture the games that were being criticised there. Initially, I found this very regrettable, because I had told the conference that I would be willing to hold a question and answer session. But now that I see how low the level of discussion obviously was, I’m glad that I didn’t waste my time.
 

European GamePolitics reader Soldat Louis offers more insights into the controversial gathering:

There was a conference held in Munich about "computer games and violence", that reunited many researchers on the effects of violent games. Most were German, to the exception of [Iowa State's] Douglas Gentile. I created a thread [in GP Forums] and tried to translate the first reports on this conference as best as I could...

One longitudinal study presented at the conference (and published in the Journal of Media Psychology) claimed that "violent games" are the #1 risk factor in violent criminality... Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Hermann took advantage of this conference to call for a ban on "extremely violent video games". And fourth, because despite all that, there were voices of the reason, such as Douglas Gentile and, to some extent, [journalist] Rainer Fromm.

For Soldat Louis' fascinating, full write-up, hit the jump...

No Gears of War 2 for Japan, Germany

October 22, 2008 -

Edge Online reports that upcoming Xbox 360 gore-fest Gears of War 2 will not be released in Japan or Germany.

Germany is perhaps not a surprise, given that the original 2006 GoW was banned there. Not selling the game in Japan, however, is raising some eyebrows. From the EO report:

“We can confirm that Gears of War 2 will not be available in Germany or Japan indefinitely” said the [Microsoft] spokesperson. 

 

The news may come as a shock to many observers as the original Gears of War was one of the first titles to crack the Japanese software charts during a time when the 360 console was selling at its slowest...

The reasons why the game will not be released remain unclear...  Edge has approached Microsoft’s offices in Japan for comment.

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EA: Dead Space Has Won "Over 11" Awards

October 14, 2008 -

Dead Space, EA's survival-horror game set in space, is launching today.

As GamePolitics has reported in the past, the game may or may not have been banned in Japan, Germany, China and South Korea (take your pick, since EA has chosen not to clarify this issue).

We note the following line from today's press release (full text after the jump):

The game has won over 11 awards...

So, 12 then? In that case, may I suggest that "a dozen awards" would sound more impressive? If the number is 13 or 14, "more than a dozen" would sound even better. 11 is just such an odd point to make that demarcation. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but I tend to do that more than 4 times per day.

GP: In regard to Dead Space, the whole was it or wasn't it banned situation was odd, to say the least. While my suspicion was - and is - that the undocumented "bannings" were hype, the game seems to be scoring well in reviews. GameSpot, for instance, gave the 360 version a 9.0, and EA lists glowing reviews from Game Informer and GamePro in its press release.

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New Game is NYC Subway Simulator

October 13, 2008 -

GP is an admitted sucker for simulation games, so it's no surprise that World of Subway caught our eye.

German developer TML Studios launched their first foray into subway sims in 2005 by adding the Berlin underground to Microsoft Train Simulator, a game which enjoys a following among hardcore rail enthusiasts. Top News has a report:

The game allows players to manoeuvre between New York City and New Jersey, picking up passengers along the way. Publisher Aerosoft says the program will win people over with its realism: slow motion is used to convey the sensation of movement. The three-dimensional cockpit starts vibrating at high speeds.

The program's creators do not intend stopping at New York. A series is planned focusing on the world's most interesting subway stretches.

GP: Here's hoping that the London Tube is TML's next sim project. Mind the gap, and all that...

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German Elections Bring Good News, Bad News for Gamers

September 29, 2008 -

A high-ranking German official who has in the past advocated jail time for creators and players of violent games may be forced to give up his post following weekend regional elections.

As reported by Forbes, the status of Bavarian state premier Guenther Beckstein (left) is in jeopardy after voters rejected his party, the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU).

That's the good news. The bad news is Forbes' speculation that Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, a fellow CSU member, may be in line to succeed Beckstein. As GamePolitics reported last month, Herrmann is pushing a ban on what he terms Killerspiele (killer games).

Thanks to: Long time GP reader Bart George, aka Soldat Louis...

 

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A Week Later, Dead Space Ban Situation as Clear as Mud

September 12, 2008 -

It's been more than a week since the first wave of reports that Dead Space had been banned in Japan, China and Germany hit the web, yet publisher Electronic Arts has failed to provide a definitive answer as to exactly what's going on with the supposed censorship of the game.

That's unfortunate, since EA itself launched the story. The original report was set in motion by a pair of EA community managers for the sci-fi survival-horror game. Here at GamePolitics I have pointed out a number of reasons why the original ban report seemed questionable.

GameCyte now has a post in which Dead Space executive producer Glen Schofield (see him hyping the game's violence level at E3) says that the game has indeed been banned in Japan and "hints at difficulties in Germany and Korea as well..."

With all due respect to Schofield, I still have difficulty believing that the game has been banned in Japan, home of Resident Evil. I'd like to see an official announcement from EA and/or CERO, the Japanese rating organization. Moreover, as GP reported earlier this week, EA doesn't distribute console games in Japan, so only the PC version of Dead Space would potentially be at risk of a ban there.

Also in regard to Schofield's comments, what happened to the original claim of a Dead Space ban in China? Schofield doesn't even mention China. As in Japan, EA distributes no console games there, so at worst there might be a ban on the PC version. But we don't know. Does China even have a game content rating board? Doubtful. Previous bans have been handed down by government agencies such as the Ministry of Culture and the State General Administration of Press and Publication.

And now Germany has morphed from a ban to a hint of difficulties? As to Schofield's comment about a potential ban in Korea, that's a completely new one. Here's the quote from Schofield:

Glen Schofield: Australia is getting the full, complete version. No cuts. We’re not softening it for anybody. You know, I think a part of it was – he’s not a killer. He’s killing aliens and that’s why we thought for a while we’d get it through in Germany. And they were like ‘well, the fact that he can get dismembered pretty grotesquely is bad, so…’ We thought it was cool.

 

IGN: And Japan banned it?

 

Glen Schofield: Japan too. Korea thought they would get it, but we haven’t heard back yet.

As I see it, here are the possibilities:

  • Dead Space has been banned in Japan, China & Germany, as per original report
  • Dead Space has been banned in Japan and has "difficulties" in Germany & Korea, as per EA's Glen Schofield
  • Dead Space hasn't been banned anywhere; it's all hype

It's important to remember that EA could clear all of this up with a simple press release. If I spoke Japanese I'd contact CERO myself and ask about the supposed Japanese ban. Any volunteers?

42 comments

Pachter: Rumored Dead Space Ban "No Big Deal"

September 9, 2008 -

When a publicly traded U.S. company experiences what the Securities and Exchange Commission terms an "unscheduled material event" it is required to file a form 8-K in order to alert stockholders and the market at large.

For example, Electronic Arts filed an 8-K just yesterday to inform the market that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was slipping into 2009, with a resultant loss of significant expected 2008 income.

So, if the rumor that EA's upcoming Dead Space has been banned in three markets - China, Japan and Germany - is true, might that not trigger an 8-K disclosure as well? None has been forthcoming so far.

For the answer, GamePolitics turned to financial analyst extraordinaire Michale Pachter (left) of Wedbush-Morgan:

GP: If Dead Space was really banned in three major markets (Japan, China, Germany) as the rumor currently goes, wouldn’t that be a material event that EA would need to disclose to the stock market? Also – does EA sell console games in China? I thought no one did because of piracy issues.

PACHTER: Germany will allow the game with modifications.  Japan and China are essentially closed markets.  So really, no big deal. No consoles in China, yet

GP: Can you elaborate on what you mean by "closed market" in terms of Japan?

PACHTER: EA sells very little there, maybe $50 million per year, mostly PC games. I don't think it is that controversial.  [Dead Space] is a horror game, not the same as Manhunt.  The bans are from the usual suspects, not a big deal

GP: Thanks, Mike.

Although Pachter confirms that there are no console sales in China, Dead Space is scheduled to release on PC, so that's the version which EA would want to market in China and Japan. If the ban is real (still a pretty big "if" at this point), it likely involves the PC flavor of Dead Space in those markets.

Clearly, Pachter does not see this as a significant issue for EA, at least in the financial sense. Bans are always troubling, however, so we eagerly await EA's official word on this.

EA Hyped Dead Space Violence at E3

September 9, 2008 -

While mere gamer mortals wait to see whether the gaming gods at EA will deign to reveal whether or not the rumors that Dead Space has been banned in three countries are true, here's an interesting point.

Hyping the intense violence of Dead Space is clearly a large part of EA's marketing strategy for the game.

EA was upfront about the game's blood and gore factor at its E3 2008 press conference in Los Angeles. Very upfront. Check out G4TV's video feed of the event. Fast foward to 10:45. That's when Dead Space executive producer Glen Schofield walks onstage. Here's what he says about the violence:

For the past two-and-a-half years, my team and I have been creating a game that's a bit of a departure for EA. It's a very M-rated, sci-fi survival-horror game called Dead Space. [crowd cheers] That's what I like to hear...

 

Dead Space is the story of Isaac Clarke... we focused deeply on creating a rich story and pushed EXTREMELY hard on the horror elements. But we also innovated on our main gameplay features such as zero gravity...

 

And our core gameplay mechanic is - strategic dismemberment, which is a clinical term for you have to tear these creatures apart limb-by-limb in order to kill 'em...

Several minutes of game play follow... Schofield returns to the stage at 16:05:

[crowd cheers] ...Thank you. Dead Space will be available on the 360, the PS3 and the PC on October 21st. Now we just showed you some action in our live demo. I'd like to leave you with a gameplay trailer that really sets the mood and tone of Dead Space. This trailer is made with 100% gameplay footage. And I hope you're all over 17 for this one. Thank you... [trailer starts up]

GameStop's product page for Dead Space also hypes the violence. The first two bullet points are:

  • Strategic dismemberment—Shear off limbs with powerful weapons as you carve a bloody path through the alien hordes. Find ways to neutralize attacking enemies effectively or they’ll keep coming at you. When ammo runs low, use telekinesis to pick up objects—even the enemies’ own arms and legs!—and fire them at anything that stands in your way.
  • Terror in the far reaches of space—A blood-curdling interactive horror experience features state-of-the art graphics and effects, a panic-inducing audio system, and a truly frightening atmosphere of death and despair.

So... do rumors of a ban help fuel the marketing of Dead Space as a "bad boy" of EA's gaming stable?

10 comments

Report: Dead Space Team Sticking to 3-Country Ban Claim

September 9, 2008 -

In Saturday's coverage GamePolitics questioned reported claims by a pair of community managers that EA's upcoming Dead Space has been banned in Japan, China and Germany.

Over at Ars Technica, Ben Kuchera writes that a Dead Space team member using the screen name isaacclarke has been insisting via Twitter that the ban is real. Ben posted screenshots of several recent tweets by Isaac, including one entered at 4:20pm PST Sunday:

I just confirmed with upper management that Dead Space is banned in Germany, China and Japan. Not a rumor, folks... It's true.

So, we'll see...

GP: Reader Flowerbed reminds us that "Isaac Clarke" is the name of the protagonist in Dead Space. Thanks, FB...

15 comments

In Germany, Politician Urges Ban on "Killer Games" as Gaming Mag Fights Back

September 8, 2008 -

Although last week's report of a Dead Space ban may be spurious, violent video games continue to come under fire in Germany.

GamePolitics has heard from several European gamers who have cited anti-game comments made by Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (left) to Zeit Online. Herrmann, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), refers to violent games as Killerspiele (killer games). Big thanks to ECA forum member felix-reichert who has very graciously provided a translation of the interview:

ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Herrmann, which "Killergames" have you played to come to the belief that they must be banned?

Joachim Herrmann: I personally don't play, but I have watched them [being played] extensively. I am shocked how the player is driven towards gruesome violence. He, so to speak, becomes a criminal himself and kills others to obtain money or to collect points. The more gruesome the killing the higher the score. We don't need something like this. Such games are unbearable.

ZEIT ONLINE: Obviously you are talking about the GTA-Series. The most recent GTA is rated 18. Why shouldn't adults be allowed to play these games?

Herrmann: From a cinema-owner I can expect that he actually only lets people over 18 years in. But if we're talking about Computer games its different. If an 18-year-old has a game, the next day he'll pass it to 17-, 16- and 15-year-olds. I don't believe that there's an entitlement for these games in our liberal society. The protection of children and the youth must be a priority. Its not about the playing [of these games] alone. There are numerous studies that explicitly prove: the more intensive teenagers engage themselves in these games, the higher the danger of them imitating this [behavior] in reality.

ZEIT ONLINE: Media-scientists haven't found common ground on that issue, though.

Herrmann: The criminologist Christian Pfeiffer provided corresponding evidence from his studies at our expert-round in Berlin. Of course not every player becomes a violent criminal. But even if games only cause a rise of a certain percentage in youth-violence it is reason enough to outlaw them. In other fields we also have clear bans, I'm thinking of child pornography.

ZEIT ONLINE: Still, the problem isn't that these games exist, but that children can still acquire them in spite of the German age-restrictions.

Herrmann: That is one of the problems. But the bigger the danger of such games getting to the hands of children and teenagers the more the state has to intervene. It is also forbidden for everyone to trivialize the crimes of the national-socialists.

ZEIT ONLINE:  However the [indexing] that exists today is in fact equivalent to a ban. For example indexed games can't be advertised.

Herrmann: That's not enough. Games that glorify brutal violence must generally be banned in penal law.

ZEIT ONLINE: The penal law already outlaws glorification of violence. A Bavarian draft for a new paragraph didn't find consent in Bundestag [German parliament, a bit similar to the House of Reps]. Also after six years of discussion the youth-protection-law was changed – and some say it wasn't even tightened. Do you really think a ban is possible?

Herrmann: We won't peg away at that, we want to continue this discussion. With the totally insufficient changes of the youth-protection-law this isn't concluded for us.

ZEIT ONLINE: The games-industry would call such a ban unconstitutional.

Herrmann: I'm very much hoping for a change of opinion there. Even today there are manufacturers that completely abandon the violence field. They want to make intelligent games, educational games, and many other fascinating things.

ZEIT ONLINE: But a number of manufacturers earn their money with games containing violence.

Herrmann: There's massive pressure from U.S. manufacturers. But we also do not have a different weapons law than America for no reason – over here not everybody can walk around at will with a firearm. We mustn't let certain aberrations of American society gain influence here.

GP readers Soldat Louis and David Ziegler report that in the wake of the Zeit Online interview, German magazine PC Games called on gamers to conduct a massive mail campaign to CSU leadership by way of protesting Herrmann's implication that violent game players are potential killers. The CSU responded with a press release calling for an urgent ban, and dismissed the gamer protest.

Apparently some younger officials of the CSU and other parties have voiced opposition to Herrmann's proposed violent game ban, which is an interesting development.

 

177 comments

Dead Space Ban in Three Countries? We're Not Buying It

September 6, 2008 -

Yesterday we mentioned a Destructoid report which said that EA's upcoming space-horror-survival title Dead Space had been banned in Germany, Japan and China. Destructoid sourced the info to Dead Space community manager Andrew Green.

Right away, the story didn't pass our smell test:

  • Germany, perhaps. They've been tough on game violence of late. But Japan? The home of Resident Evil?
  • Does EA even distribute console games in China (due to piracy concerns)?
  • No announcements from the individual censorship bodies of the three nations?
  • All three bans come in simultaneously?
  • Also of note, Australia's notoriously censorious OFLC cleared Dead Space with MA15+
  • And the BBFC, which banned Manhunt 2 in the U.K., cleared Dead Space with 18
  • No official press release from EA on the alleged bans?

GP immediately contacted EA, with distinctly unsatisfactory results. The top PR dog didn't respond to our e-mail. Later in the day we tracked down the EA guy who is handling Dead Space PR, and put the question to him in two e-mails and a live phone call. Never got an answer one way or the other. EA doesn't know if one of their high profile titles managed to get banned in three countries? Sorry, not buying that. Or, they know but aren't saying? Unacceptable.

GamePolitics reader Afirejar posted a comment to yesterday's story which argued that the supposed German ban was bogus:

I can confirm for a fact that Dead Space has not been banned in Germany. Under German law it's not possible to ban products before they are actually available. The game isn't out yet, so it can't be banned, it's that simple. It's just not possible under German law.

 

This seems to be nothing more than a marketing stunt, German gaming paper GameStar even has official word from EA, that it's a hoax. The USK ratings process isn't even finished yet.  (Sorry, German only)
 

Later, Videogaming247 cited a German language story by Eurogamer.de, which negates the report of a Dead Space ban in Germany:

Eurogamer.de’s scotched a report that said Dead Space had already been banned in Germany. Basically, it hasn’t.

 

The site’s spoken to EA Germany, and the game is still with the USK [ratings body], apparently, so no one knows yet if there are going to be any restrictions on the horror’s launch.

GP: It's time for EA to put an end to this nonsense. If there is a multi-country ban, gamers deserve to know about it. If there's not, gamers deserve to stop having their chains yanked...

UPDATE: Hey, I want to point out that I'm not faulting Destructoid here. They were not the only outlet reporting this, just the first. If the info is wrong, it seems that it somehow originated with the community managers of Dead Space.

65 comments

Report: Dead Space Banned in Germany, China, Japan

September 5, 2008 -

Citing comments made by a Dead Space community manager, Destructoid reports that EA's upcoming sci-fi horror game has been banned in China, Japan and Germany:

We've also been told by Dead Space community manager Andrew Green that the title has been completely banned from the following countries: Germany, Japan, and China. That's right, there's just too much survival and way too much horror in Dead Space for these countries to handle. No word on whether EA has any plans to alter the game for a future release in those territories.

Oddly enough, in the U.K., the BBFC has rated Dead Space an 18, while quick-to-censor Australia has awarded it an MA15+. We're still checking with the ESRB, but GameStop's website is displaying an "M" on Dead Space packaging.

GP: I'm having a little trouble digesting this one. It's not hard to believe Germany would ban Dead Space, as they have been fairly quick on the censorship trigger of late. However, given that Japan is the home of Resident Evil, a ban on a survival horror game would be surprising. Also, I'm not even certain that EA distributes console titles in China, due to the piracy issues there. We have a request in to EA to confirm...

59 comments

Berlin Wall Map Offered for Garry's Mod (Half-Life 2)

September 3, 2008 -

The real Berlin Wall came down in 1989, but Half-Life 2 owners can check out a virtual recreation thanks to an awesome-looking Berlin Wall map which has been posted on the Garry's Mod site.

An explanation accompanies the download:

The anticipated BerlinWall map has been released. The map offers singleplayer experience from the view of an East German citizen, dreaming of living in the West Germany. The gameplay in the map is non-linear, you can take many paths to west. Also, avoid making mistakes, they can be deadly, and remember to check everywhere for some sort of weapons.

The map works the best in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, but like common Source-based maps, it also works in Garry's Mod. Not offering the best gameplay experience in it, but works great for posing and comics.

GamePolitics reader Michael Jürges tipped us to the map. He writes in an e-mail to GP:

Although I haven't had the opportunity to play the map yet, the mapping seems, judging from the screenshots, pretty accurate (I'm German myself and I've been to this part of Berlin as well). Personally, I think this might be quite a good idea - reenacting historical settings and immerge oneself into this virtual environment can, perhaps, contribute to a better understanding about what the people who had to endure these challenges in order to escape from the East German regime felt like.

GP: This is something I'd love to check out, so I guess it's time to re-install HL2.

15 comments

 
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NeenekoJust look at how interviews are handled. Media tends to pit someone who is at best a journalist, but usually entertainer, against an expert, and it is presented and percieved as if they are equals.10/25/2014 - 7:38am
Neeneko@MC - Focusing on perpetrator does nothing for prevention, the media and public lack the domain knowledge and event details to draw any useful conclusions. All we get are armchair risk experts.10/25/2014 - 7:36am
Neeneko@AE - no name or picture, I like it.10/25/2014 - 7:34am
PHX Corp@MW and AE The news media needs to stop promoting the Shooters. period10/25/2014 - 7:16am
Andrew EisenWhen I write about these massacres, I don't use the shooter's name or picture. I'm not saying everyone has to play it that way but that's how I prefer to do it.10/25/2014 - 12:44am
Andrew EisenYep, it's why the news media stopped spotlighting numbnuts who run out on the field during sporting events.10/25/2014 - 12:01am
Matthew Wilsonin media research its called the copycat effect. it simply says that if the news covers one mass shooting shooter, it increases the likelihood of another person going on a mass shooting.10/25/2014 - 12:00am
Andrew EisenAgreed. It bugs me that I know the names, faces and personal histories of a bunch of mass shooters but I couldn't tell you the name of or recognize a photo of a single one of their victims.10/24/2014 - 11:51pm
AvalongodAgree with Quiknkold. @Mecha...if that worked we would have figured out how to prevent these long ago.10/24/2014 - 11:32pm
MechaCrashUnfortunately, you have to focus on the perpetrator to figure out the whys so you can try to prevent it from happening again.10/24/2014 - 10:55pm
quiknkoldpoor girl. poor victims. rather focus on them then the shooter. giving too much thought to the monster takes away from the victims.10/24/2014 - 10:15pm
Andrew EisenFor what it's worth, early reports are painting the motive as "he was pissed that a particular girl wouldn't date him."10/24/2014 - 10:12pm
quiknkoldwell then I suck as a man cause I ask for help when necessary :P10/24/2014 - 10:07pm
Technogeek(That said, mostly I was making the smartass evopsych comment because your post seemed like the kind of just-so story that has come to dominate 99% of its usage.)10/24/2014 - 10:04pm
TechnogeekHell, Liam Neeson built his modern career around it. Cultural factors likely play a far greater role than you appear willing to admit.10/24/2014 - 10:03pm
TechnogeekSeriously, though, the idea of "because women are protectors and that's why they never commit school shootings" is, at best, grossly overreductive. There's nothing inherently feminine about being willing to kill in order to protect one's offspring.10/24/2014 - 10:03pm
MechaCrashThe "toxic masculinity" thing refers to how you have to SUCK IT UP AND BE A MAN because seeking help is seen as weakness, which means you suck at manliness, so it builds and builds and builds until something finally snaps.10/24/2014 - 10:01pm
quiknkoldthere, I'm done. And thats what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown10/24/2014 - 9:54pm
quiknkoldand I am not spouting Evopsych, technogeek. tbh I never heard the phrase till you said it. I'm going off my observations.10/24/2014 - 9:54pm
quiknkoldmoreover, the guy who did this isnt even white. He was native american according to the news report I read. Also that he went for a specific target. That's a much different picture than a certain Sandy Hook guy who will not be named10/24/2014 - 9:53pm
 

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