On April 1, there will be new laws concerning video games in Germany, and the age of people who may buy and play them.
At first, something about German laws about “violent games”:
Games which are considered dangerous for children / teenagers can be put onto the Index.
If a game is to be put there, it has to be checked by the BPjS (BundesprÃ¼fstelle fÃ¼r jugendgefÃ¤hrdente Schriften). Only they decide about that, no one else. They are no members of the government and work independently.
Games which are there must not be advertised, nor be visible in any shops. Someone who wants to buy such a game must ask the vendor for that certain game; the vendor is not allowed to answer a question such as “which indexed games can you get me?”.
Furthermore, if your age is not obviously 18 or more, he has to ask for a proof for your age (pass port, driving license, or whatever).
Being on the index does not mean “banned”. Only very few games are really banned, such as the US version of RTCW.
Being on the index really means the abovestated. Not more, not less (unless I forgot a point )
A bit of history first:
As some of you might remember, some time ago, there had been a masacre in Erfurth, where a 16 years old guy killed a lot of people in a school.
About 5 minutes after this tragedy, all local and non-local TV stations knew with 100% certainty that this guy played Counterstrike all day, for the one and only purpose of training and preparing this masacre.
The police found out that this guy did neither possess Counterstrike nor an Internet connection, but this was a detail unsuitable for the government as well as for the majority of newspapers.
Only larger stations which could risk reporting the truth (gaining less publicity among average non-gamers aged 60+) mentioned this small detail.
What was going on then?
The government wanted Counterstrike to be put to the index. The BPjS checked the game, and found that “although killing people is a part of the game, it is not the only content…” and that “team work to achieve a certain goal is also an important part”…and rejected the request!
The workaround for this was simple: Changing the laws!
This is what is coming now:
There will be not only “index” or “not index”, but different ages for what games can be certified: none, 6, 12, 16 and 18.
For the purpose of abbreviation, I will call games which are certified for a certain age “FSK xx”.
Games which are certified “FSK 18” must not any longer be sold online. Imported games, which are not certified at all (such as Diablo 2 US version) are automatically considered dangerous and will be considered “FSK 18”, unless the publisher has them certified by a corresponding organisation.
Since FSK 16 games can be ordered online, nothing will prevent a 14 years old teenie to order a FSK 16 games…except for his parents.
The German magazine GameStar had a nice headline for their article: “Protection of Youth? Yes! Protection against Politicians”
Now some questions you should think about:
Do you know about similar development in your country?
Who is responsible to have a look at games children play? The government or the parents?
Do you think the German way is any good?
BTW, according to what I read, Counterstrike would probably be certified FSK 16, if it were new and had to be checked.