Salida dear readers,
my name is Jim aka "OpiumHerz" and as some of you may already guess by that nickname: I am german. With the blog series "The worst thing about censorship is ███████ " I want to simply give you a little insight in videogame censorhsip, which is still pretty much alive and kicking here in Germany (but I won't restrict myself to Germany exklusively). I'll try to post entries all two weeks or so. Feel free to comment for suggestions, corrections or critique and let's get started at the beginning: the german rating system for videogames.
In Germany we have an institution called "Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle" - or short USK. The job of the USK is to rate videogames. The people working there are doing it voluntary and a board of about half a dozen people rates a game. Who those people are is always different since the USK has a big pool of people to choose from and there are no clear guidelines existing about the rating progress at all, at least they have never been made known (but more on that topic later). The USK can give the following ratings:
- ohne Altersbeschränkung: means it has no age limit, the label for this is white.
- ab 6: rated 6 and upwards, the label for this is yellow.
- ab 12: rated 12 and upwards, the label for this is green.
- ab 16: rated 16 and upwards, the label for this is blue.
- ab 18/keine Jugendfreigabe: adults only, the label for this is red.
The ratings in Germany are juristically binding, means a store can be sued if he sells a high rated game to kids. Besides these ratings there are three "special ratings" a game can have:
- indexed: this means the game is available only for adults. It must not be advertised in public, the game is not allowed to lie open in store shelves and importing it via normal postal service is forbidden. These games can be advertised and lie out open in rooms or shops where only adults may enter, for example the "adult section" of a video rental shop.
- unrated: everything that applied for indexed games applies here too. The catch: every version of a gamed needs, per law, to be rated or it is unrated, even if we have a german version of the game that has a rating. So for an example: the japanese version of "Kingdom Hearts" is technically an "adults only" game here in Germany, because the japanese version was never rated by the USK (and why should it be, of course?). The same goes for indexing or confiscating (see next point) games. Just because for example the US version of "Sniper Elite V2" was indexed doesn't automatically mean the asian version is indexed too. There is, however, a rule that starts to work here. This law says essentially that if there is an indexed medium and another medium is identically in content, it is indexed too. Unlike the USA Germany has no official "Unrated"-Rating, it is more like a rating-limbo here. Essentially it means: if you want to sell your game like normal an official rating is mandatory.
- confiscated: the worst case scenario. The index has two lists: A and B (actually there are more, but they are irrelevant). If a game is indexed on list A, than that was it. The process is done. If it is indexed on list B however things might not be over. List B contains titles that may be breaking the law. Mostly it is the so called §131, which means the game is glorifying violence. Most confiscations and indexings are happening on this account. A confiscation can only be ordered by a court of law. The difference to being indexed is that confiscated games must also not be sold in Germany at all.The only way to get confiscated games, at least legally, is to import.
Unlike the usual ratings, indexing and confiscating are not done by the USK. For this we have another instance: the "Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien" - the BPjM. If a game (or movie) has an official rating it can not be indexed anymore. A few years ago this was still possible (and quite a problem). As for any unrated article: someone has to request that the BPjM checks it. These guys don't do anything on their own.
So, to conclude this little introduction:
- the USK rates games in Germany (for all, 6+, 12+, 16+ oder 18+/adults only).
- the BPjM indexes games in Germany.
- only a court can decide to confiscate a game in Germany.
- if a game is unrated it is to be treated like an indexed one.
In the next entry I will explain reasons for high ratings, indexings and cofiscations and give you a few examples.