Forbidden but not quite? Germany passes new video game distribution legislation

The German government yesterday passed a new legislation regarding the sale of video games to minors.

“Auf dem Index” ist ein Spiel, wenn es keine Jugendfreigabe erhält. Erwachsene dürfen es kaufen, aber nur “unter dem Ladentisch”, es darf nirgends offen angeboten werden. “Bundesweit beschlagnahmt” ist ein Spiel, wenn nach dem Strafgesetz seine Verbreitung verboten ist. Wer ein solches Spiel besitzt, kann es zuhause in Ruhe spielen, denn Besitz und die Herstellung sind nicht verboten.

Or translated to English:

A game is listed “on the list” if it’s not allowed to be sold to minors. Adults are allowed to buy it, but only from “under the counter”; it is not allowed to be advertised/on the shelves anywhere. A game is classed as “confiscated nationwide” if it’s circulation is prohibited after the legislation. Anyone owing such game is allowed to play it at home as owning and manufacturing are not forbidden.


As an aside, that took me far too long to translate!

As a whole rating films and games is a good thing as it gives an indication on the content and means that children and teenagers only have access to media which is suitable for their age, for example GTA IV which can only be purchased by anyone over 18 or various films over the years.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t without it’s flaws. The way the rating, especially for games, is established is broken and the ratings differ between the countries. And then there are always the shops themselves that don’t necessarily honour the ratings and sell ‘over 18’ games to minors or parents buying them for their kids with the misguided belief that ‘games are for kids’.

Maybe it is because I won’t be affected by it, but I support any kind of purchase restriction for minors and have never found myself disagreeing with the rating a game I’ve played has received. Ratings are there for a reason and looking at the big picture it works.

The new scheme Germany is set to introduce does disturb me though. Taking ‘over 18’ games off the shelves and only selling them from ‘under the counter’ isn’t the way to go, especially as films are retailed, advertised and broadcast on TV without any restrictions. In addition, even over 18 games in Germany are different to their American or even UK counterparts with most of the blood or the violent scenes removed, such as ‘The Suffering‘ cutting to a black screen for the most violent cutscenes or ‘Mortal Kombat: Deception‘ removing the violent Fatality scenes.

The legislation sets a bad precedent; adults should still be able to purchase games normally. There rather needs to be more clarification as to what the ratings actually stand for to parents and the general population and to an extent how people perceive games. Attempts have been made in the USA to inform people about the ratings and that is what Germany needs. There is so much talk about so called ‘Killerspiele’ [Killergames] that a positive mainstream news article about gaming is seen as a big surprise that some Germans feel it necessary to write about their surprise. But then there’s always the tabloids with their take on things.

I hope Germany soon realises that this isn’t the way forward and that ratings exist for a reason. And I hope even more that other countries don’t get similar crazy ideas.


  1. Posted May 10, 2008 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    What is it? Are games porn now? UNDER THE TABLE?!! Just because you can’t educate the masses doesn’t mean the masses shouldn’t write. More of the same – old world establishments trying to keep newer technologies under their sway.

    Btw, is this the very same country where Carmageddon was released with robots [or Zombies]? Find it hard to believe.

  2. Posted May 10, 2008 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know, I never played that game.

    But blood is generally removed or has a different colour, like green in a skating game.

  3. Posted May 11, 2008 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Lol. You’ll never find it on the shelves.. it was banned. I got it in a 25 CD pack when we bought a Joystick.

  4. Posted May 12, 2008 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    So let me get this straight – heavily censored (and from the sound of it, quite clumsily, too) 18-rated games are considered worse than 18 rated movies?

    That’s messed up. Seriously.

  5. Posted May 16, 2008 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    It just doesn’t make sense, you know?

    If they would ban both than fair enough, but this half assed attempt?

  6. Posted May 22, 2008 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Meh, the not selling it to minors is fine, but putting it under the counter is just shit.

    And as an aside, you can’t do anything about parents buying them for their kids. If it’s someone over 18 paying for it, you have to sell it. No way to prove it’s for their kids. And I know some parents do let their kids buy some M games, but just not certain ones.

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  1. […] I have written about games politics on this blog before; once praising the state of Delaware launching a campaign to make parents aware that games carry ratings and another time on how Germany passed a new legislation disallowing games on the index to be advertised in shops back i…. […]

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