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German gamers take on politician who wants to ban 'Killer Games'

5:27 PM on 09.08.2008 // Jim Sterling
  @JimSterling

It's really easy to make Nazi references about the German government, but when its ministers seem so intent on repressing the freedom of media, it's hard not to wonder if fascism in German politics died with ol' Addy H. Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann is one such Reichstag candidate, who has recently called for the banning of what he calls Killerspiele (Killer Games.)

German publication Zeit Online interviewed Herrmann, where he drew indirect comparisons between videogames and child pornography, suggested that games should be banned instead of movies because cinema owners can stop children entering their premises (conveniently ignoring DVDs) and generally spouted ignorant hyperbole. 

The interview is contained after the jump, and provides a disturbing glimpse into this minister's mind. That he believes games should be banned on the basis of nothing more than perceived, unproven threats is worrying, not to mention his fear of what he called "American aberrations of society."

According to GamePolitics, who also provided the translated interview, German magazine PC Games is attempting to organize a huge mail campaign against the Christian Social Union to which Herrmann belongs. Younger CSU officials are also said to have voiced their dissention, making it known that they don't agree with the proposed ban on games. Good for them, and let's hope that this depressing individual doesn't get his way.

ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Herrmann, which "Killergames" have you played to come to the belief that they must be banned?

Joachim Herrmann: I personally don't play, but I have watched them [being played] extensively. I am shocked how the player is driven towards gruesome violence. He, so to speak, becomes a criminal himself and kills others to obtain money or to collect points. The more gruesome the killing the higher the score. We don't need something like this. Such games are unbearable.

ZEIT ONLINE: Obviously you are talking about the GTA-Series. The most recent GTA is rated 18. Why shouldn't adults be allowed to play these games?

Herrmann: From a cinema-owner I can expect that he actually only lets people over 18 years in. But if we're talking about Computer games its different. If an 18-year-old has a game, the next day he'll pass it to 17-, 16- and 15-year-olds. I don't believe that there's an entitlement for these games in our liberal society. The protection of children and the youth must be a priority. Its not about the playing [of these games] alone. There are numerous studies that explicitly prove: the more intensive teenagers engage themselves in these games, the higher the danger of them imitating this [behavior] in reality.

ZEIT ONLINE: Media-scientists haven't found common ground on that issue, though.

Herrmann: The criminologist Christian Pfeiffer provided corresponding evidence from his studies at our expert-round in Berlin. Of course not every player becomes a violent criminal. But even if games only cause a rise of a certain percentage in youth-violence it is reason enough to outlaw them. In other fields we also have clear bans, I'm thinking of child pornography.

ZEIT ONLINE: Still, the problem isn't that these games exist, but that children can still acquire them in spite of the German age-restrictions.

Herrmann: That is one of the problems. But the bigger the danger of such games getting to the hands of children and teenagers the more the state has to intervene. It is also forbidden for everyone to trivialize the crimes of the national-socialists.

ZEIT ONLINE:  However the [indexing] that exists today is in fact equivalent to a ban. For example indexed games can't be advertised.

Herrmann: That's not enough. Games that glorify brutal violence must generally be banned in penal law.

ZEIT ONLINE: The penal law already outlaws glorification of violence. A Bavarian draft for a new paragraph didn't find consent in Bundestag [German parliament, a bit similar to the House of Reps]. Also after six years of discussion the youth-protection-law was changed – and some say it wasn't even tightened. Do you really think a ban is possible?

Herrmann: We won't peg away at that, we want to continue this discussion. With the totally insufficient changes of the youth-protection-law this isn't concluded for us.

ZEIT ONLINE: The games-industry would call such a ban unconstitutional.

Herrmann: I'm very much hoping for a change of opinion there. Even today there are manufacturers that completely abandon the violence field. They want to make intelligent games, educational games, and many other fascinating things.

ZEIT ONLINE: But a number of manufacturers earn their money with games containing violence.

Herrmann: There's massive pressure from U.S. manufacturers. But we also do not have a different weapons law than America for no reason – over here not everybody can walk around at will with a firearm. We mustn't let certain aberrations of American society gain influence here.



Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
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