The Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle, usually referred to as the USK or the Entertainment Software Self-Control regulatory body, announced that they are changing their practice when it comes to age-rating a game that may contain “unconstitutional” imagery or content.
The news was originally posted over on the USK website on August 9th, 2018, where they briefly announced…
“Social adequacy in this context means that symbols of anti-constitutional organizations can be used in a title, as long as it serves the arts or science, the representation of events of the day or history. […]
”Therefore, an age rating decision always requires a case-by-case examination and is not a general exception. The change was made possible by a change in the legal interpretation of the competent highest state youth authority, which takes into account the current legal assessments.”
In simple terms, what this means is that games that were typically denied release or ratings in Germany for containing “unconstitutional” symbols or iconography, such as the Swastika, will now be rated and judged on a case by case basis instead of being widely denied a rating, which is the equivalent of banning the game in Germany.
An English translation of the news was also covered by Lexology (archive), which explained that the Sec. 86A StGB ruling prohibited games from promoting unconstitutional imagery, and that in 1998 the High Court stated…
“If such a use of prohibited symbols in computer games would be allowed it would hardly be possible to prevent an increasing use of such symbols in public which would contravene the purpose of Sec. 86a StGB. In particular for children and adolescents, computer games are an attractive and increasingly used form of play. If they would be lawfully confronted with symbols of national socialist organizations in video games, this could lead to them growing up with these symbols and insignias and thereby becoming used to them, which again could make them more vulnerable for ideological manipulation by national socialist ideas.”
Since the 1998 ruling, games containing Swastikas or Nazi imagery have been prohibited from being released in Germany. In order to get around the ruling, publishers have had to remove or censor Nazi imagery, or remove references to certain Nazi icons such as Adolf Hitler, which is what MachineGames was required to do for Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.
It appears that after 20 years, the German USK regulatory body is easing up on the standards and allowing games to be rated on a case by case basis instead of simply banning games that contain Nazi imagery. Hopefully games will receive some of the same exemptions that movies receive in Germany.
Now if only something can be done about the sexy-time games getting banned in Germany…
(Thanks for the news tip Musou Tensei)