Germany lifts automatic ban on Nazi symbols in video games

10 Aug 2018

A hand holding the video game Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. Image: P3ak/Shutterstock

A new ruling means video games in Germany will get the same treatment as films when it comes to using Nazi imagery.

A German regulatory body has overturned a rule that required video games to censor Nazi symbols such as the swastika before they were allowed to be sold in the country.

Computer and video games featuring symbols of the Nazi Party regime can now be sold in the country without being doctored. The Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK) said on 9 August that games including these symbols can now be given a rating in Germany.

Nazi symbols can be used under certain conditions

This is subject to whether the use of the symbol is “socially adequate”. The social adequacy of the symbol hinges on whether it serves an artistic or scientific purpose, or if it is used to represent historical events.

Late last year, the release of video game Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus sparked a debate around the issue. The game involves a parallel universe, which explores what would happen if the Nazis had emerged victorious after the Second World War.

It featured Adolf Hitler with his moustache removed as well as numerous triangular symbols in place of swastikas.

The law in Germany around using symbols affiliated with “unconstitutional organisations” (Section 86a) came into force during the Cold War. It outlaws Nazi and Communist symbols, among others.

The law remains the same, but video games now have the same legal status as film in Germany: “Symbols of anti-constitutional organisations can be used in a title as long as it serves the arts or science, the representation of events of the day, or history.”

German games industry welcomes the change

Director of the German Games Industry Association, Felix Falk, welcomed the decision: “Computer and video games have been recognised as a cultural medium for many years now, and this latest decision consistently cements that recognition in terms of the use of unconstitutional symbols as well.”

He added: “We in the games industry are concerned about the tendencies we see towards racism, anti-semitism and discrimination.”

Falk noted that professionals in the industry are “strongly committed to an open, inclusive society, to the values laid out in the German constitution, and to Germany’s historical responsibility”.

Games with a Nazi element will be subject to an an age limit, according to the USK.

A hand holding the video game Wolfenstein 2:The New Colossus.  Image: P3ak/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects