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 at least all two weeks or so. Feel free to comment for suggestions, corrections or critique and let's get started with: how the Publishers make stupid decisions in all this.
You see, the problem is not that censored versions exist. It is the same as "no blood" options in games. I have the OPTION to tune the gore in "Gears of War" down and I don't mind, because I am not forced to use this option. That is perfectly fine. As such I don't have a problem with censored version per se, although I admit I don't like them. However: a problum occurs the moment when there is no alternative. And it's the publishers that really take a piss at gamers here. You want examples? Sure thing, here you go:
Sniper Elite V2 is a perfect example. The german version was of course heavily censored. A slow-motion x-ray kill cam that shows how bones and organs get destroyed was something no gamer would expect to make it to Germany. As I said before: importing games from Austria is something very popular over here, because these versions are usually uncut and have german voices and texts. But if you wanted to activate your imported version of Sniper Elite V2 via STEAM (the game was NOT released on consoles for the german market!) you were greeted by this little message:
"Sorry but the following items are not available for purchase in your country. Your purchase has been cancelled."
This means essentially that I, a grown man, an adult by law here, can not activate/play a game I legally bought. And this is just some hot bowl of bullshit right here. Looking back this feels even worse because in the spring of 2013 the console versions were given to the USK - finally - and the game passed the USK, getting an 18+ rating. Uncut. Absolutely UN-CEN-SORED! If you bought an import version of this back then, this is now just a kick in the balls. The "Eliminate the Führer" DLC in which you can kill Hitler is still not scheduled to be released in Germany at all, by the way.
Another thing that pissed german gamers off was "Gears of War". As I explained in an earlier blog, GoW was denied a rating and indexed, but GoW 3 and Judgement came through without a problem. We could play imported copies of Gears without problems, I myself played through UK versions of GoW 1 and GoW 2. However, for absolutely NO reason at all the Gears of War DLC that was available at XBL was blocked. Additional Maps? Well, not for the dirty Germans. And there was really NO reason to block these DLCs. They were just maps, for fuck's sake. MAPS. But oh no, the game wasn't officially released here, so why on earth could we use maps, hm? It was just flabberghastingly stupid, since the multiplayer was a part that many people enjoyed for a longer time than the singleplayer.
But the worst offender here, by far, is STEAM. As mentioned before, the problem with “Sniper Elite V2” came from STEAM and, to be fair, it is unknown if the regionlock came from the publisher or STEAM itself. However: STEAM is not acting on any clear pattern here. Some indexed games are available via STEAM without any problems in their bloody, uncensored versions. Some games are subsequently censored, as it happened with Half-Life 2. The game was originally released uncensored with a 16+ rating. Then the “Orange Box” was released and in it Half-Life 2 suddenly had black blood. After that every german version of Half-Life 2 suddenly had black blood instead of red. And suddenly there was a “Low Violence Version”-hint on the STEAM store page. The power that STEAM has over it’s games (after all you have to accept patches and updates if you want to play online) is in hindsight to this a real problem, especially in correlation with the randomness. If STEAM decides to lock a game subsequently I can’t do shit about it.
And the worst part of it all? Nobody would have to do this. You see, the laws I mentioned earlier go for physical existing stores. The GameStop around the corner (not that I would ever buy something from GameStop, god forbid) can’t just sell indexed games. Onlinestores however, like STEAM or XBL, can. Without any problem. If I want to buy an indexed or even confiscated game online there is now law that forbids it, but the publishers are what’s hindering me. That leaves me only with the question if the people in chare are crazy. I mean, seriously: are you guys mental or what?! Because apparently you don’t WANT to sell me your game, even though I would pay the full price for it. I would pay for good DLC, if I could get it. And while companies, when you ask them, like to simply say “We must abide the laws!” not one company could ever name the specific § that would be coming into effect in this situation.
So, let’s face the situation: there is a game I want to buy and that I, in theory, could legally buy – but the publisher blocks me from it or from parts of the content (I would pay for, too).
I could buy a censored version – which I will never do, because when I pay for the full game I want the full game, even it’s just some damn red pixels (besides I’m old enough to decide myself what I can stand and what not, I don’t need a company to hold my hand and guide me through this big scary world).
So… yeah. What options are left? Like Jim Sterling, I can’t possibly comment on piracy. But let’s say I know of a whole lot of gamers who started acting against the law because the publishers wouldn’t act by it. And as someone who refuses to buy censored version I can hardly judge them for it. If a publisher apparently doesn’t want to sell it’s game, fine. But then fuck off and don’t try to shove a butchered version into my face. Of course there are options like using Proxies to access another XBL or to get games gifted from STEAM via someone from abroad. But considering how much might these services have, like mentioned above, that is almost not a real option. I already had the problem with one STEAM game that I couldn’t launch it. Why? Well, because I was in the “wrong region” for it. The game was region locked in a way that someone could gift it to me with no problems, but afterwards I was not able to play it. And if Microsoft decides to pull something like that with the X-Box we have no choice but to either stay offline forever or just swallow it. And then they cry that their games don’t sell enough…
It might seem stupid to some of you that we are crying over, as friend mine likes to say, some red pixels in a game. But this is not about what is depicted in the game, but a thing of principle. As an adult I don’t need anyone to tell me what I can and can’t stand to see. If I want to grab some freaks’ balls with a pair of pliers and rip them off in Manhunt 2, that’s my own damn business. Us german gamers fought a long time against censorship in games, we have to deal with this shit for about 25 years now. But I think none of us ever expected that the publishers, who should be interested in selling as much games as possible, would be our enemies in this.