Germany has decided to lift a long-standing ban on Nazi imagery, such as swastikas, appearing in video games. In order to release in Germany, World War II-centered video games such as Wolfenstein and Call of Duty have had to either edit out every use of a swastika or develop their entire games using something else for the Nazis' symbol.
For years, any video game that contained "symbols of unconstitutional organizations," such as Nazi symbols, weren't allowed to release in the country. And since Germany is a major European market, especially for shooter titles, the ban would cause issues for developers and publishers around the world, especially since video games are considered art forms just like movies, which weren't necessarily restricted by the same rules. In some cases, such as in Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, Adolf Hitler wasn't explicitly mentioned and his infamous mustache was even removed in Germany. Thankfully, it seems like Germany may no longer discriminate against video games with such imagery.
Germany's Entertainment Software Self-Control board, known as USK, recently made a statement revealing the decision to lift the controversial ban. The announcement, when translated from German, is entitled "In the future, USK will take into account social adequacy for age rating of games." With heavy emphasis on the educational purpose of such symbols, the USK's decision appears to determine the appropriateness on a "case-by-case" basis. Historical accuracy plays a large role in this decision and could allow well-meaning games set in Nazi Germany to appear, for the first time, the way they do in other countries, the way they were intended to look.
Blockbuster games have had to be adapt to suit Germany's Criminal Code. Whether it meant turning Nazis into robots, removing violent content, changing swastikas to other symbols, or proffering a clean shaven Hitler to conceal his identity, developers and publishers found ways to avoid the mention of the symbol that represented such an indescribably disturbing moment in Germany's history. But, by doing so, they opened themselves up to inaccuracy and scrutiny from their consumers.
Nazi imagery can be disturbing and jarring, and its use in a video game can verge on seeming insensitive. Yet, as much as it may be detested, it's a part of history. The USK's recent decision could appear to be the relaxing of an older rule set in place to prevent Nazism from slowly seeping into present-day Germany. However, it appears that it could in fact represent the opposite. This move could mean Germany facing the event of World War II head on and allowing their undesirable past to be brought to the forefront, to be viewed in all forms of media. Though, whether this is a step in the right direction for them or an insensitive step backwards, only time will tell.