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German outrage at Berlin Wall game

They can't get over it.

Have you heard about 1378(km)? It's a German PC game that challenges one "refugee" team to escape over a Cold War Berlin Wall and the other "border soldiers" team to shoot them.

It's become a controversial sensation - online servers crashed within an hour of launch, shortly before Christmas, according to The Week magazine.

But Germany's not happy, and 1378(km) has apparently attracted "furious condemnation from victims" of East Germany's then communist regime, as well as vicious scorn from the regional press: "Will the revolting East German shoot-'em-up be banned?" asked the BILD newspaper's online publication in September.

On the 1378(km) website, creator Jens M. Stober defended the game's premise, and argued that people would not have reacted this way had he made a film.

"A large part of the criticism is a consequence of my chosen medium, the computer game," wrote Stober.

"Computer games as a medium are often quick to be judged without being more closely examined, as was also the case with my art project. It was designed to enable a younger generation to access information on recent German history using a medium familiar to them."

He added: "In this computer game - which would not be the case in, for example, a documentary film - I personally have the control over my behaviour and my reactions, which take place in real-time and in changing situations.

"The game 1378(km) does not force someone playing the 'border soldiers' to shoot the 'refugees'. Players are left with the freedom of choice. You are only able to win 1378(km) when you do not shoot. The rules of the game are inspired by the situation at the former Inner German border.

"Border camps, death strips, and orders to shoot are what make the game brutal."

1378(km) - named so because of the length of the Inner German border between East and West Germany - is a modified version of Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, and up to 16 people can play online at the same time.

"I deeply regret that the victims of the former border and their families and relatives have felt cause for injury. This was never part of my intention," concluded Stober.

Border lands.

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Robert Purchese

Senior Staff Writer

Bertie is senior staff writer and Eurogamer's Poland-and-dragons correspondent. He's part of the furniture here, a friendly chair, and reports on all kinds of things, the stranger the better.

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