Sunday, July 01, 2007

A violent game

There are games that are violent because of the things the player can do. And there are games which are violent because of what the characters do. That's a big difference. And it is a far more significant difference than most people might think.

Games in which players can do violent things (most ego-shooters or games like GTA) are quite often called "Killerspiel" by the politicians. They are what those people fight against, because they believe it's a bad influence on teenagers and young grown-ups.

Games in which the characters do violent things, on the other hand, are rarely seen as "Killerspiele", they are usually seen as harmless - at least in Germany. I learned that when buying - and playing - the game "Still Life". In Germany the rating is "16+", but he European Rating, which also is on the box, is "18+". Now, if you just examine what the player is doing, the German rating is absolutely correct. But if you take a look at the story and the pictures the player will see throughout the game, then the European rating is absolutely correct.

"Still Life" is about a serial killer who positions his victims in certain ways, each of them differently. He kills them violently and that's how the corpses look when found by the police. As the player character is an F.B.I. profiler named Victoria McPherson, she gets to see the pictures and the corpses (in some cases). The player is faced with some pictures that might be a little too much for a sixteen-year-old teenager - although some will have no problems, but some sixteen-year-olds won't have problems with "18+" games either.

Usually, whenever it's about "Killerspiele", the politicians argue that the European rating is too low (sometimes it's even "12+" when the game is "16+" in Germany). In this case the German rating is lower, because the player can't actually do something violent (well, there's a fight at the end, but that's a cut-scene, not something the player can control).

That shows quite clearly how different people understand the issue of violence in Germany and the rest of Europe. We seem to think the only violence to keep away from teenagers is the kind they're allowed to do themselves while the other countries seem to think the violence to keep away from teenagers is the really bloody type.

"Still Life" is intense. It's drawing the player in and has quite some 'shock-moments'. But it doesn't have any "Killerspiele"-moments.

There are games which are for grown-ups because of their content. And there are games which are for grown-ups only because of what you can do. But there's no way politicians in Germany will ever grasp the difference.

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