Killerspiele • Page 4

In search of Germany's virtual scapegoats.

"I first read about this violent videogame-related resolution on the internet. An online petition seemed to be best way to make a stand against the proposals to me at the time. The petition exceeded my expectations by far. It was a spontaneous decision and I didn't do any promotion. In fact, I first learned about its gigantic success from reading about it in the German press.

"I don't know if the petition will be successful in helping to avert a ban, but I hope so. At least there are now more discussions about it in the public as gamers have come together with one voice. That's a good start. I hope that our resistance continues to grow. Hundreds of thousands of peaceful players are going to be criminalised if there is a ban on 18+ games in Germany."

Despite Schleusser 's valiant efforts in providing gamers with a more united voice on the issues, there are many who argue there's nothing to worry about as any such ban would be unconstitutional. I spoke to Marcus, a German lawyer and enthusiastic gamer, who asked to remain anonymous, about whether he thought the proposed ban had any real chance of coming into effect. "I am quite convinced that the politicians behind this will try to push it through. However, whether such a law would be ratified is far from certain - and even if it was, I am sure someone would take it to the Federal Constitutional Court, and I have serious doubts that this court would find such a law that generally bans all violent games valid."

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Condemned 2. Pretty grim, actually.

It is, of course, a polarising debate, and gamers are often as guilty as the tabloids for rushing to extremes and failing to hear the genuine concerns of their opponents. But Marcus believes there is a third way, one that supports conversation and diplomacy in place of grandstanding and rabble-rousing. "While I obviously don't agree with many of the conclusions of the anti-gaming lobby and their over-the-top reactions and proposals, the fact that there is national sensitivity for the issue, and a wide discussion, strikes me as being important. I am all for a very, very strict system that makes sure, as far as possible, that violent games do not fall into the hands of minors. In reality, very few people actually claim that games turn people into killers. That's often a straw-man argument spread by gamers. A more prevalent argument is, for example, that games can teach a behavioural pattern.

"A priori denying any possibility of negative influence whatsoever of violent games strikes me as a little naive," he continues. "The fact that many gamers engage in the same polarised debate as their opponents has not helped the discussion here in Germany. It's important to openly discuss these things. The best results are achieved where both parties are ready to listen to each other, and unfortunately, many gamers are more stubborn than the politicians, undermining the admirable efforts of other gamers (and the gaming press) in Germany to have a balanced, intelligent discussion about the whole matter."

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And Manhunt 2, probably the most famous of the "offenders".

There is a tangible sense that, if gamers simply play the waiting game, they will in time win the arguments. The older generations of Germans who don't play videogames will retire, and with them will follow their reactions to gaming's often grisly depictions, which recall 20th Century history that they, more than anyone, would rather not be used for sport and entertainment. In 20 years the vast majority of Germany's Interior Ministers will have grown up playing videogames, and will share a language and common perspective that ensures new scapegoats will have to be found in the aftermath of school shootings.

But there's a cold arrogance to that point of view. The effects and dangers of violent videogames should be fully discussed, debated, tested and continually checked. We should always be mindful that videogames offer mere fleeting entertainment while life, in contrast, is infinitely precious. The former should never threaten the latter. Hardy Schober's anguish may be misplaced and his tabloid-friendly skip stunt deserving of mockery. But more than that, he deserves a conversation. If gamers cannot afford him that, then in some ways, they really are to blame.

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