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.
This episode is about: Grand Theft Auto
"Grand Theft Auto" - or GTA for short - had a surprisingly easy standing at it's beginning. It might have only been 2D/top-down, but it was still a quite violent game. You could kill civilians who were not able to defend themselves at any time, you could run them over, start a massacre, you were rewarded for killing them in some point and the general tone of the games was quite dark and sinister. Yet, the first iteration of it came through with a 16+ rating with almost no censoring. I'm not even sure we can talk about censoring here, because it sounds more like a bug or glitch to me. When you played the game on the german language the female characters couldn't be chosen. There are two reasons why I think this might be an accident:
1. the London Addon had a similiar "problem". You couldn't choose 4 of the characters with german language set. However, all of these characters were male. The number is the exact same as there were women in GTA 1.
2. playing as a female character didn't change ANYTHING in the game. There were no gameplay changes that would happen because of your choice of character.
Plus, looking at the game itself, it just seems too strange. We will never know for sure, but the german version of GTA was very much playable and one of the very few cases were the changes could be ignored at all. Besides they weren't there if you didn't play it on german. This censorship hit the complete EU release, not only the german version.
"Grand Theft Auto 2" also had just very small censorship, but this was censorship for sure. There were no puddles of blood surrounding corpses. Again it was a real minor change and again, the game came through with a 16+ rating.
But when "Grand Theft Auto III" arrived, so did rigorous censorship. First of all you were not able to hit enemies that were lying on the ground. While Claude, the game character, would kick and hit people lying on the ground, he would just swing at the air in the german version. Blood and all kinds of gore were removed again too. No puddles of blood on the floor and no decapitations or shot off limbs. Another motive that starred here again was the "killing for stuff"-theme. As I explained before it's not liked to be seen if you get points or something like that - i.e. a reward - for killing. In GTA 3 the people you killed dropped money - but only in the uncensored version. What really hit that point home was that something else was removed: all of the so called "Rampage Missions". In these bonus missions you had a certain weapon with infinite ammo and had to kill a certain amount of enemies within a time limit. Doing so got you a big cash bonus.
Especially the last point was really aggraveting. In the prior installments missions like that were included and it was a major element of the game. We're talking about more than a dozen bonus missions (and cash boni) you couldn't obtain. But thanks to a bunch of coders there was an uncut patch available soon after release. On some versions the principle of GTA 1 was in place again, meaning your game was only censored when you played in german. Play it with your PS2 set to english, for example, and the game was completly uncensored. This however doesn't go for every version.
"Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" had the exact same censoring in place and this time no german version, except the first edition for PS2, could be turned uncut by switching the language. The german version was cut-only and every uncut version was indexed (the BPjM actually refused to index "Grand Theft Auto III" although you could turn the game uncut by switching the language).
In addition to everything that was removed in GTA III, two of the main missions were also gone. The first one was called "Messing with the man". In this one the head of biker gang tells you to wreak havoc and you have to so until a "Chaosmeter" is filled. It's pretty similiar to the removed "Rampage Missions". The second mission that had to go was called "Dirty Lickin's". Here you have take a sniper rifle and kill the members of a Cuban gang, while they are fighting with a haitian gang.
The next title in the series, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas", reduced it's censorships on the gore again. No blood, no gore, no hitting downed people and no money from corpses. As with "Vice City" every german release was censored-only and the uncut versions were indexed.
2006 saw the release of "Vice City Stories" and, you guessed it, it was censored again. As before: no gore, no blood, no hitting downed people, no money from corpses and one removed mission (called "Karmageddon", which is similiar to the "Messing with the man" mission) later the game was rated 16+ and put on shelves, while the uncut version was indexed again. The PS2 port from the PSP developed title was censored too.
Now, "Grand Theft Auto IV" is the one where it gets really interessting. At first it seemed that this part would get censored too and looking at the more recent history of the series, it would have surprised no one. Amazon listed an additional "uncut" version, so we all expected being forced to import once more. But Rockstar did the unthinkable: they filed a protest! The story behind this is almost comedic:
As I explained before when a game gets rated, the commitee consists of five people. In the first instance 4/5 people voted for an 18+ rating of the geame. The one person voting against it with aiming at getting the game indexed was the representative of the so called Landesjugendbehörde (national agency for youth). So Take2 filed a protest against this and the USK had to check the game again with an all new commitee. But now shit hit the fan, as this commitee decided to not give a rating on it's own and voted for indexing the game.
Take2, not satisfied, filed a protest AGAIN. Now the BPjM stepped into the ring and checked the game. The BPjM decided that there was no reason to index the game. The fact that you didn't get rewarded for senseless murder and violence like before was the saving grace. Now that the BPjM denied the indexing of the game, the USK was forced (!) to give a rating because of this. Because: if a game isn't worthy indexing, it has to be worthy of a rating. It's pretty simple logic, really. There were all kinds of rumors about the rating of GTA 4 and after the fog of mystery was lifted, it was a very entertaining read. And thus "Grand Theft Auto IV" got an 18+ rating without any censorship at all.
Saldy, very few publishers make use of their rights. Another prominent title to do so was "Dead Space". The game had to be viewed three times to finally get an 18+ rating without any censoring. One can only assume why the rating took so long (the german version was pushed back because of this), however it does make sense. In DS you only fight bizarre alien creatures and only defend yourselves. Then again: that you are forced by gameplay/canon to sever limbs was something that surely didn't sit well with the USK. However, EA filed two protests and was able to punch the game through. It shows that a publisher can manage the unthinkable, concerning german games ratings.
However, that didn't save "Dead Space: Extraction" and "Dead Space 2". The first one had the usual violence removal (no gore, removed corpses and bodyparts). The latter however had one of the most stupid censorhsips every: friendly fire was removed in the multiplayer mode. You could hit your teammates, but their energy wouldn't deplete. It is still puzzling what that was about, since the game was rated 18+ anyway and the blood splatters when you hit a teammate were still there.
But enough of that. So much for GTA. It started midly, went really bad, and is going uphill now again. Let's see if the next part of the series will hit Germany uncut again or not.