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. With this episode I will start in what I recently called the more routine filled part of this blog, where I will put my eye on certain games, their censorship and the hows and whys of this title. And today will be: Bioshock Infinite!
First off: "Bioshock Infinite" came to Germany completly uncensored. "Bioshock" was a bit censored
(german comparison, but the pictures should be clear for everybody), but one can assume that this was done by the publisher in advance to ensure a rating. However, the violence between "Bioshock 1 + 2" and Infinite are two different stories. One can safely say that "Bioshock Infinite" is quite the violent game with all of it's slow-mo bloodiness and up-close melee finishers. It is certainly not a game for kids by any means and the USK saw that and rated it 18+. And apparently it even is REALLY uncut, because recently it became a nasty habit to simply slap a "100% uncut" sticker on the box, even when the game is censored. The publishers simply LIED.
It didn't really matter to me. I used a foreign version, US to be exact, and thus didn't mind any potential censorship, because it didn't matter in this case. After playing a bit I was surprised that this game came through without any hiccups. But there are some things that might explain this.
First off, the violence is done in a defensive way. Booker isn't the agressor, he is simply fighting for his life, as soon as the Columbians start to attack him. He doesn't initiate the violence. This was most likely an important part in the rating process, because that is something the USK simply doesn't like. Here however, the player isn't killing exessively for joy, for shits & giggles or because he wants to - he is fighting for his very life. The Columbians don't even leave him a choice of any kind, they just start to attack.
Another important point is Booker's view on himself. He is not a glorified manslaughterer, he doesn't like what he is doing and does some spicy oneliners. Over the course of the story it is very clear that Booker doesn't like the killing. He is neither happy nor proud to do it, but it's a mean to an end. This is another part that will have bode well with the USK.
Secondly, the violence is not the "main attraction". This game is about many topics, but violence is none of them. Violence IS happening prevalently, but unlike in games like "Punisher" or "Manhunt" is it not the focus of it. The kills are part of the gameplay and not presented in a stylisch, cool fashion. Othet topics simply weigh heavier on this one. Is it even right to kill? What means is one, from a standpoint of ethics, allowed to use? All these questions gloom over Booker, and thus the player, while moving through Bioshock Infinite. The story is actually an important part, just like the questions it asks, and through it the game moves away from a simple shooter. This is another thing the USK "likes" - context. That was most likely one of the reasons "Spec Ops: The Line" came through too (more on that one later).
It was definitely the right decision to rate "Bioshock Infinite" 18+. Like I said, I don't think this is a game for kids at all. Considering the violence AND the content, I'm pretty sure it's not even for every grown up. But it was also the right decision to not censor it, since the violence happening in the game is, in fact, an important part of the story. I have seen many discussions over the past few weeks if a violence-less "Bioshock Infinite" should be or should not be, and why it should or should not be. I won't give you any more of this, I'm sure if you are interested in the topic you already heard every opinion there is to this.
But I'm glad that the game came through in Germany as it was intended by it's designers. And it is reasonable, too. As I stated before there are many random factors and too less strict guidelines, so the USK is a pretty shady organisation with no clear lining on how they work and how they rate. However, there are some aspects that can be filed under "The USK likes that". And many of those factors are here in Bioshock Infinite: no glorification of the violence, not making it look cool and stylish, the heavy emphasis on story - all these are redeeming factors, when it comes to a rating in Germany.
As a little overview: the last few days were very quiet in Germany when it comes to censorship in games. Both "Call of Juarez: Gunslinger" and "Metro: Last Light" were announced to come uncensored. Time will tell if those news were true or not.
So, don't know yet what I will do next time. If you have certain wishes, write them in the comments.