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 before I get into a more routine filled part of this, where I pick examples and show them to you, let's get started with: how we avoid the censorship.
The most aparent option is the simplest of them all: don't buy german versions. But here already start the troubles, at least in some casses. First of all, the console games. They can be regionlocked so a german console won't play them. Nowadays this isn't so much a problem anymore, many games are simply not region locked anymore. But especially in the last generation, where "PAL" and "NTSC" were terms everybody who imports a game had to know, importing could be problematic. German Playstation 2s wouldn't play US games without modding, for example. In these days region locks have become a minor problem, but still something that can occur.
Another problem can be accessing DLC. Like I mentioned before the best example was "Gears of War". It didn't matter what version you had: if logged in from a german IP you could not access the DLC for the game. Thank god most companies were not so damn stupid like EPIC was and don't lock their DLC, especially not the free stuff. But it wouldn't be a problem, in theory, to lock all the stuff (including the Multiplayer in general) down for german players. The options ARE there.
Another problem can be language. Because I myself like to play games in their native language it leaves me with most games in English anyway. If the game is in a language I don't understand (japanese for example) I also prefer english subtitles, because I found them of better quality. I know there are some odd english translations too, but that's not the point. The point is: there are a lot players who want german language and texts here. Nowadays european releases are usually multilingual, but that doesn't necessarily mean that every release is. This leads to the most popular option for importing: Austria. I mentioned it before, but in Austria there is a little scene of shops that specialized on importing uncut games to Germany. They do, essentially, nothing else. Austrian releases are usually uncut because they don't have an institution like the USK. Ironically even Nazi symbolism in games is okay with them, but not with Germany. Besides that they have german language because german is the spoken language in Austria. The only problematic thing that can happen is that your package gets pulled out by customs. If the feds working there are a little bit up to snuff it can happen that they will keep the package and you payed for nothing. And yes, that is perfectly legal practice, because you are not allowed to simply import indexed and confiscated games via normal post. However, many of the feds don't really know what they are holding. Normally they just want to see the bill, add the taxes you have to pay and that's it then. Other stores from Asia for example even have branches in Europa that send the packages so it is less obvious to customs.
But then there are the digitally bought games and this is where shit hits the fan. I mentioned the trouble "Sniper Elite V2" gave german players in my last episode. This is something that can be done with ANY game. If we preorder a game because we want to have it at release, we can never be sure if we can activate and play it then too. That is a lesson "Call of Duty - Black Ops" taught many germans, because this is another one of those games you can't activate on the german STEAM in it's uncensored version (then again, it hardly mattered here, because the german PEGI version was censored too - although it was only Nazi symbols here). "Call of Duty - Modern Warfare 2" also, by the way. Some publishers have at least the decency to say this beforehand, so the informed player will know. But nonetheless: it shows how mighty STEAM and it's colleagues have become. Even if one would activate an uncensored version, there is no guarantee that STEAM would not censor it afterwards anyway, as long as you are logged in with a german IP.
One could use proxies to simply access another country's STEAM. This is a relatively painless process, since all it needs is a little program like "HotSpot Shield" and the click of a button. Using proxies with consoles on the other hand is whole different affair and far more complicated. The last time I read an article on it, it had me guide the signal of the X-Box through my PC, using a proxy directly from the router and not just a program. It was a mess and a lot more work than it should be for a grown man to buy some damn videogames.
Proxies alone, however, won't guarantee you get an uncensored version either. Apparently STEAM is so clever to check from where it's getting paid. So if I use a german PayPal account I get fucked up the butt nonetheless. Besides I risk my account with using a proxy, because the license agreement forbids such practics. There are no known cases of someone getting banned for it, and Valve would be tremendously stupid to make use of this paragraph in their LA, but it is simply a risk I don't want to take. I don't want to run the risk of losing my whole account for buying one game. I found that the best way to get uncensored STEAM games is to visit the US STEAM via proxy, pick out what I want, then ask in the forums for someone to gift them to me. That is the only unproblematic way to get games I found so far and I still fear that it will be only a question of time until STEAM will fill this hole too.
So you see, circumventing the german censorship can be a little hard at times. So far it was almost always possible in a legal way. Still, it is amazing how complicated some publishers are making the simple process of letting us buy their product. It is just mind baffeling and there is a growing scene of people who are aware of this censorhsip. A growing scene of people who actually care. There are many who don't. The kind of people who don't even mind. My parents for example are both actually gamers, but don't care for censored or not. They don't mind when movies like "The Rock" are on TV and are cut by 11:30 minutes (not kidding, this version DOES exist
). But the german gamers are starting to wake up in this matter and most of them don't like what they are seeing. Making it harder and harder for us to get uncensored version will most likely drive more and more into piracy. Why? Because it is easier. If I just download an .iso and am done with it, and get a version that is guaranteed 100% uncensored, why should I bother with proxies and getting games gifted from foreign countries? I'm quite affine with the computer, I know my way around. Many others don't. They don't know what a proxy is and they don't care, they just want their (uncensored) games and be done with it. But even a person who doesn't know how to use a proxy, or how that you can get games gifted from abroad, even these users know one word: Download. And that is a factor publishers should consider for the future. Because, guys, we WANT to give you our money. We just want the complete game for it. Simple as that.