Outrage caused over Berlin Wall shooter

30 Sep 2010

A student has sparked anger after he created a video game where gamers can play as either an East German border guard, shooting political fugitives escaping to West Germany, or an East German fugitive, trying to escape over the Berlin Wall.

The game is called 1378 km, a reference to the length in kilometres of the border between East and West Germany during the Cold War.

The player can take on the role of either a border guard or an escapee. They are given the choice to either arrest, kill, be killed, run or give up.

The actions have consequences, which includes prison for attempted escapees and honours for soldiers.

Guards who kill too many escapees will be sent to the year 2000, where they face a trial for their crimes.

Political aspects affect the game score, too. Too many deaths at the border will lose the gamer points, as it will increase political pressure on East Germany.

In defence of 1378km

The 23-year-old creator of the game, Jens Stober, insists the game is educational.

“Becoming an East German escapee or border guard enables players to identify with these figures,” he said.

“It’s a novel way of encouraging young people to take an interest in coming to terms with recent German history.”

The Federal Foundation for the Reconciliation of the Communist Dictatorship said that, while it welcomed different means of coming to terms with the regime, it was cynical of whether young people would learn anything from it.

“Ultimately, it’s just an ego-shooter game, which is unacceptable given the historical context,” said Dietrich Wolf, spokesperson for the foundation.

“The shootings at the wall were no game – they destroyed people’s lives and families. But people playing this game won’t get a sense of that,” said Theordore Mettrup of the Association for Victims of Communist Tyranny.

Mettrup added that he believed the game “makes a mockery of the victims.”

The game will be released this Sunday, the same day as the 20th anniversary of German reunification.