German Blogger, writing the series "The worst thing about censorship is ███████ " (go check it out!) since I like to write about that topic and am invested in it a whole lot. Also writes some other stuff sometimes. Likes to listen to very strange bands and has the ultimate goal in life to taste every soft drink there is at least once.
Pure Gonzo - and while I thank god for Jim Sterling sometimes, I thank god for Hunter S. Thompson every day.
I'm a bastard. Don't trust me. Always keep asking, don let yourself get fed bullshit - not even by me.
I like good games. Yes, that's quite general, but I don't really like confining myself to certain genres. I like interesting approaches, invention and creativity. But I can enjoy a straight-up shooter as much as a "Bastion". It just has to be done well and appeal to me on some level.
Want to know anything else? Just leave a comment under a blog or write a message. Same goes for corrections (please), as English isn't my native language and thus isn't nearly perfect.
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 censorship, which is still pretty much alive and kicking here in Germany (but I won't restrict myself to Germany exclusively). I started this blog in 2013 and consider this series to be now in Season 2. Fuck yeah! After getting frontpage-famous I'll continue to take stuff from my colleagues at Schnittberichte and recycle that stuff for your enjoyment.
This episode is about the Wolfenstein franchise
Oh yes, it's ze Nazis again. Let's jump right into it, this is gonna be a long one.
Many might not know this but the franchise started in 1981 with Castle Wolfenstein on the C64. The game was, as it was pretty common back then, only released in the US officially. It was also more of a stealth game. The follow up Beyond Castle Wolfenstein was released three years later and also was just released in the US. So no censorship to see here. Those two games were also done by MUSE and not by Apogee/3D Realms.
The first time Wolfenstein gained real success was with Wolfenstein 3D. A first person shooter that had stuff like black magic and a Mecha-Hitler. Of course it didn't take too long, until January 1994 to be exact, for the game getting confiscated. Why? Because of the evil symbols in it of course. The PC version, however, didn't get censored. It didn't have a proper german release and thus the only way to get it here was to import it anyways.
No, it was up to Nintendo to create a worldwide censored version. They wanted in on the shooter hype but still had to keep their family friendly face. So they removed all the blood, the DeathCams where you see endbosses splatter to pieces in slow-mo again, the dogs became huge rats and corpses and skeletons that were lying around where removed. Since they also removed puddles of blood on the floor you weren't able to replenish 10% health by drinking those. They also removed black magic Hitler and basically all the nazi symbolism. They even changed the portraits of Hitler by removing the red armband and his beard. Also the term "Hitler" was exchanged with "Staatsmeister", "Nazi-Germany" was exchanged with "Master State" and the "United States" became "The Republic". One last thing: the endboss Gretel Große, a female with two chainguns, became Trans Große which is a brown haired guy with a more Mad Max-ish attire. It also ruins an ingame joke referencing the fairy tale with Hansel & Gretel.
So all in all they wanted to keep their good shooter, but couldn't have Nazis or too much brutality on their SNES. This is one of the more famous censorships because it was global.
The re-release on the Nintendo Gameboy Advance was completely uncensored by the way. It wasn't confiscated but "only" indexed in Germany, interestingly enough. Usually it should have been confiscated on the base of an "equality of content" rule.
The removed Black Magic Hitler enemy.
The next entry was Return To Castle Wolfenstein. The censorship here is pretty quick and simple: no Nazi symbols and no Nazis. Every reference was removed and the german version which was also the only censored one (rated 16+). So instead of the Nazis you fight "The Wolfs" in the german version, a cult like army. So the Führer became the "Wolfpackleader" and Heinrich Himmler was changed into Heinrich Höller (get it? Get it? Himmel and Hölle - Heaven and Hell! Man, that's witty). Unlike before however they didn't just remove the symbols but exchanged them in many places with the Wolfenstein logo. The plot, overall, stayed pretty much the same however.
It's very arguable if the dub-changes were needed at all. But more to that later.
Then came Wolfenstein. This one was actually recalled because the publisher overlooked one swastika (!) at some point of the game. To make sure they won't get into any legal troubles they called the first editions back. The game was rated 18+ through the whole thing and apparently not even our ratings board noticed the symbol in question - or they just didn't care?
The one forgotten Swastika. We will always remember you.
This one got censored a bit heavier again. Blood, gore and ragdolls were completely gone in the german version. You weren't able to kill innocent scientists, decorative blood and bodyparts were also removed as was one death animation (the enemy got hit on the throat and dies very painfully - reminds the player of the original Turok, which had a similar animation).
And of course: Nazi references and symbols. Either it was removed or replaced with the Wolfenstein logo again. Some propaganda posters were completely redone and the Nazis become the Wolfs again. They also changed Heinrich Himmler to Höller again. At least they keep continuity with this one.
Funfact with this one: for a very short time there was a 16+ rated version to be found on Steam. This version was removed pretty quickly and you could buy the normal 18+ rated, censored version over STEAM later. The game isn't available through STEAM anymore. The uncensored version of this is confiscated.
Which leads us to 2014 and Wolfenstein: The New Order. Alright fellas: Here. We. Go. So of course we all expected the game to be censored. Especially after the trailers were censored. In April 2014 Bethesda confirmed this. With this confirmation came the first worrying factlet: there was supposed to be only one german master. This meant that Austria and Switzerland would only get a censored version as well. If you remember what I said in my earlier blog: we germans used A/CH imports in the past, because they have no problem with Nazis in videogames in any shape or form.
Then the STEAMDB entry popped up which promised a lot of things. For example that you couldn't activate a version from the rest of the world in Germany. You couldn't get the game gifted. You weren't supposed to be able to START the game, even if you were to have the uncensored version in your library somehow. It was also unclear for a long time if the UK version was to be uncensored or not. A british distributor said the version would be censored to an austrian shop, another distributor said it would be uncensored in UK. Now we already now at least: the UK version is uncensored. Austria and Switzerland were also regionlocked but that has been "fixed" in the meantime. So the swiss players are able to activate a US version - but that one still only has english language. If they want to play it in german they HAVE to use the censored version, the game is not multilingual. And even the dutch version seems censored, at least according to the post cards that come with the "Occupied Edition" of the game. This shows just how absurd this is, because the Netherlands practically have no legal ways of pulling a game from the shelves again. As I explained in my Manhunt entry, you can pretty much release everything there without trouble.
One of the postcards from the "Occupied Edition" from the Netherland.
So in the meantime we know: german version = no evil symbols, but uncensored when it comes to violence (according to Bethesda and it seems to be true so far - but you never know). Pretty much the same procedure as every year, Miss Sophie. The work Bethesda has put into blocking us out however is pretty new. There is no way in Germany to legally play the uncensored version except if you constantly use a VPN - something that is forbidden by STEAM and can, in theory, lead to deletion of the account. Bethesda states that these measures are necessary because they have to abide by german law. And this is where it gets interesting.
First off: let me state that this is bullshit. Even I, as a layman when it comes to law things, know that a regionlock like this is by no means necessary. This has been proven through several instances with other games. However, someone in a games forum went further. Let me state beforehand that this guy got a doctor's degree and wrote his final work about the german youth protection in the media. So he really knows his shit. He went and wrote Bethesda himself and brought a paragraph of the german law that apparently states pretty clearly that games are per se art and thus would enjoy the freedom of art and would allow the depiction of nazi symbols. And while there was apparently a court decision in this matter he also states that said court simply ignored the relevant paragraph. If this were to be true it would be really something revolutionary.
Secondly: another user stated that the regionlocking might be illegal because of laws of the european union (freedom of establishment and services, freedom of movement of capital, freedom of movement of items). And that the §86 of the german law, which is about the evil symbols we fear so much, doesn't cover private acquisition and use of items (which is correct, it doesn't). §86 also doesn't cover that, for example, Bethesda Germany has to worry about distribution and use of products from Bethesda UK. But no, Bethesda claims it's the fault of STEAM (yeah, sorry, that interview is in german only). They even go so far to say, literally "Don't you think we took immense efforts upon us, if there were no good reasons for it?" (sic). They also blamed STEAM for the regionlock that was in place for a few days in Switzerland.
In the end this means two things: nazi symbols in videogames might not be illegal and regionlocking games, at least within the EU, might be illegitimate. I really hope someone catches on to this because it might lead to absolutely great results. Although I fear that it will lead nowhere. "We want Swastikas in videogames" isn't the best thing to shout around here, seeing how they're often blamed for people running amok and it's still a topic that makes many people itch around here.
So the situation with Wolfenstein The New Order is, at the moment of writing, like this:
- Rest of the world: no problems, uncensored, who gives a fuck?
- Europe (except Germany): is able to activate the uncensored version (english language only) and the censored version (german language only).
- Germany: can't active non-german version. Can't play non-german version (except with VPN). Can't get a non-german version gifted.
I'm really curious to see how this plays out for the future. I do hope there are some consequences. It would be about time.
Thank god we have the console versions which are not region locked (my oh my, I wonder WHY?!)
So we have finally a comparison for Wolfenstein: The New Order. As it was assumed already: every hint towards the Nazis was completely removed. This means there are no more Nazi symbols in the complete game and instead of the Nazis they talk about “the regime” in the german version. They even censored the symbols /references in the retro level instead of using the old assets from the SNES version. They even censored statues that were doing the Hitler greeting in a way that they salute now. They really removed EVERY reference to the Nazis, even when certain years of the second world war were named. That said the content of the translation still fits somewhat and wasn’t badly done.
Even the slogans you see during the loadings screens were simply removed, even though those weren’t real Nazi slogans (“Our backbone is made of steel” or “Victory through fight” for example).
That said the concentration camp level is worth mentioning separately. First off it was renamed from “Forced Labor Camp Belica” to “Camp Selo”. And while Bethesda said there were no violence censorships this isn’t actually true. In the camp level you are in an oven, about to being burned with some jew corpses. While the scene is still there in the german version the other corpses were removed. If this was really necessary, considering what else is in the game, is very questionable.