Germany says games with Nazi symbols can get "artistic" exception to ban

Screenshot by Sean Hollister  CNET

Now they will be able to hand them in - as long as they point out that they contain unconstitutional symbols - and the USK's independent classification committees will then decide on a case-by-case basis whether to allow the games to go on sale.

The Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK) said Thursday that games including banned symbols could now be given a rating in Germany if the use of the symbols is considered "socially adequate".

German laws ban the public use of "symbols of unconstitutional organisations", including the swastika, the Celtic cross, and the Nazi salute - with punishments ranging from fines to three years in prison. Now video games will be given the same treatment as movies: As works of art, they will be exempt from the ban on swastikas.

The USK's ruling now places video games on equal footing with other forms of media that are allowed to use Nazis symbols, like films.

In the wake of that ruling, game publishers have had to make significant edits to numerous games for release in Germany, sometimes to a ridiculous degree.

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For instance, in the German versions of the famous Wolfenstein series, images of Adolf Hitler had to be altered to remove his mustache and the swastikas replaced with a triangular symbol.

Because Nazi symbols in movies are generally tolerated in Germany, this led to nearly ridiculous situations where, for instance, the movie Indiana Jones was shown without edits during morning hours while the corresponding and identically titled cartoonish video game only showed black holes instead of Swastikas. Screen shots taken from Censored Gaming YouTube video.

In an April decision on Bundesfighter (as reported by Lexology), Germany's attorney general ruled that the art exemption does apply to the game.

For Felix Flak, MD of Game, the German games industry trade body, this is an important step in recognizing video games as a cultural medium.

The USK, which was given responsibility for policing content by Germany's youth protection services, also said that games themed on the Nazi era would be subject to an age limit.

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