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Censored Bulletstorm given 18+ rating in Germany

Wed 09 Feb 2011 8:58am GMT / 3:58am EST / 12:58am PST
GamesPublishing

EA shooter escapes a ban but suffers heavy edits

Electronic Arts shooter Bulletstorm has been granted a USK 18 + seal by the German Entertainment Software Rating Board, but has to accept very heavy censorship cuts despite the adult rating.

Ragdoll effects, blood, splatter and dismembering are all absent from the German version of the People Can Fly and Epic co-development - which bears the tagline "Kill with skill."

Germany's youth protection measures are perhaps infamous, having lead to a number of high-profile game edits and bans in recent years. Games granted an USK seal cannot, however, be banned or indexed by the German youth protection board (BPjM).

EA also distributes the uncensored Austrian PEGI 18 version in Germany, and thus still risks this version being indexed or banned.

Both Medal of Honor and Call of Duty: Black Ops recently faced the same issue. The publishers had to accept heavy cuts for the adult version in order to obtain an USK-seal, but simultaneously sold the Austrian versions of the games. Retailers such as Amazon.de have found that PEGI versions often rank much higher in their sales charts than the German versions.

Black Ops (PEGI) was indexed by the BPjM in January, while Medal of Honor ended up on the so-called List B - indicating that the BPjM thinks that the content could be even prosecuted criminally. This would mean a complete ban in Germany.

EA, meanwhile, also refrains from allowing any access to Bulletstorm trailers on the game's German site before 11pm, in compliance with youth protection regulations.

17 Comments

I think it's all about ignorance. People (and in some cases governments) refuse to look beyond the violence in games or what kind of positive effects they can have on the player. It seems like it has always been easier to blame media (e.g. movies and music) and literature (e.g. comic books) for the violence in people instead of looking at our societies (schools, parenting, judicature, politics etc.).

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Alfonso Sexto
Lead Tester

761 574 0.8
Again the same senseless bull****

Game reating were meant to protect the freedom of game designing by informing the parents. USK is doing exactly the oposite.

The only thing they achieve with this is for every person (and thats the worst part: kids included) to import it from UK.

Congratulations USK and German government, once again a wonderful job!!

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Private
Industry

1,176 182 0.2
No word on giving points to players for killing? That`s always a big no no for the USK.

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,028 906 0.9
The German government has little to do with this. The USK is industry operated and those PEGI versions are 10-15€ more expensive. At the same time, the USK gave Magicka a rating of 16 and that game has people exploding into red mist with blood all over the floor and little pieces, such as arms and heads, to kick around.

God of War is rated 18 in all its gory details. Many other games retained their ragdoll physics, begging the question as to who is to blame here. For EA it would be totally legal to make all these cuts themselves, then apply for an 18+ rating, just to make the more expensive PEGI version that much more attractive and profit from it. You will always either get the rating you apply for or not get the rating you apply for.

With PEGI version on sale everywhere, I say fool me once...

Posted:3 years ago

#4

Chris Hunter-Brown
IT / Games specialist

52 15 0.3
How games are rated in Germany is a bit more complicated than just laying all the blame at the USK's door. There is at least the BPjM, the Index and ALL the 16 Federal states, some of whom stick their oar in a bit more than the others, to consider as well.

In my experience dealing with them, the USK are definitely pro-games but they cannot just slap ratings onto titles they believe to be eligible for the Index as it would be counter-productive in the long run.

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Armin Seuchter
Studying Business Management

25 0 0.0
Klaus, how are the PEGI versions more expensive when it is a fact that both PEGI and BBFC versions in the United Kingdom are considerably cheaper and uncensored to boot, offering a gamer in Germany more value for less money? In addition to that, didn't the Bavarian government, sly as it is, intentionally sabotage what would have otherwise been a punctual release for Dead Space 2 by demanding that the USK rate the game again or something of the sort? I am no expert but I am sure the government has more than just little to do with it.

Posted:3 years ago

#6

Henry Durrant
Programmer

46 41 0.9
This is hardly surprising given the extreme content of the game.

Posted:3 years ago

#7
Yes, the Bavarians requested that Dead Space 2 had to go through the rating procedure a sixth time.
For me, personally, this is censorship in a bad way. They claim to "protect youth" but don't allow adults to jugde for themselves what they can cope with.
I think a movie like "Evil Dead" is still on the index in Germany, while here in Quebec I could buy it with a sticker on it "13+", recommended by Quebec rating agency.
And, if the German officials really think that playing violent video games causes rampages and killing sprees, oh boy then I should be probably very worried about working in Quality Assurance ...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andreas Kannegiesser on 9th February 2011 4:18pm

Posted:3 years ago

#8

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,028 906 0.9
Be it as it may in England, in Germany a PEGI Version is synonymous with costing 10-15€ more. That is how the stores and retailers play it. This was not the case a few years back, when you had stacks of UT3 either in the German version or the PEGI version next to each other for the same price. You can also order on Amazon, but that does not stop the stores, that's a minority.

The whole "protecting the youth" angle is just a political angle. Germany is an old country with few young and many old people. Only 20% are below age 30, 40% are over 50. That has dramatic impact on the politicians, the games they play and the people they serve. "Vote for me, I protect your grandchild" is pretty much the battle cry of every politician in Germany. Especially Bavarians who you should never expect to act rationally. They cry about cell phone tower "radiation" and then take their bath in a radioactive healing spring. They live in fear of nuclear power plants and in some places have a natural occurring radioactivity 1200 times higher than next to an actual nuclear power plant. Politicians ain't no scholars, they are quite the opposite and it shows.

The rating system itself is easy and the legal consequences straightforward. Whatever gets rated by the USK is legal. Period. All the other oddball people, such as the "BPJM" (Federal Assessment Center for media endangering the youth) can only act on stuff the USK refuses to rate. With the USK being industry driven, you do the math. If they want drama to push marketing, they do that, if they want something to get pushed through, it gets pushed through.

"Dead Space is dangerous" is more of a play by EA, why would basically the same 'controversy' surface in Germany and the U.S. at the same time with pundits on both sides of the Atlantic attacking the game?

If the industry really wanted to do something about the German rating system, they would attack the "Generalverdacht"-Principle (Principle of general suspicion) which legally makes EVERY game harmful to all people until proven otherwise. But the industry seems to want this system in place. Even if it goes against the presumption of innocence.

Posted:3 years ago

#9

Private
Industry

1,176 182 0.2
Easiest way is to learn English and get the import since all games in Germany and central Europe have a price tag of 70 Euro due to heavy taxes compared to imports that run at around 45-50 and a few euro shipment.

Sure for someone who is 13 years old Bulletstorm isn`t the appropriate game (than again I played Resident Evil and Silent Hill with that age). Sure if you want a rating of 12 or 16 you are not allowed to do that or that, but what is wrong with rating boards and legal rules like this is that it also says if you want a rating at all and sell the game to grown ups you have to do that and that. If you don`t get a rating you are still allowed to sell it to grown ups, but you are not allowed to do any kind of advertisement including displaying it and once the BPjM comes in and puts it on the banned list you are not even allowed anymore to sell it to grown ups. A 13 year shouldn`t be able to go to the shop and buy that kind of games, but you can`t tell a grown up what he is allowed to play and what he isn`t. 1945 is over where it was normal to tell grown ups what they are allowed to do and what not. Quake is banned in Germany and the magazines where not even allowed to say the name in any kind of context so they had always to write "Beben" (the German word for Quake) and obviously thats not the only game I think they had also something like whenever they talked about Resident Evil 2 to use some German translation. It`s a central European country that acts in some ways not any better than China or North Korea, the difference they only do it in a smaller scope limited to only games. Such things shouldn`t be possible in a democratic country, there are other ways to protect children like for the parents to actually find out with a few button presses they can activate parental control.

Posted:3 years ago

#10

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,028 906 0.9
Avoiding to write "Quake" in the magazine had less to do with it really being illegal, but once more with overzealous district attorneys being able to yank an entire magazine off shelves. They might do so illegally, but the publisher can't take the risk in any event, leading to a system of indirect oppression. No writer wants to be the guy who caused the entire magazine to be pulled from stands and some idiot will always file a preliminary injunction, it is common in Germany to do so at multiple districts, one of them is going to stick.

Live and let live, not a German motto. "Hi, allow me to micromanage your life", the German motto.

Posted:3 years ago

#11

Matthew Ash
Quality Assurance

3 0 0.0
Surely this won't be a problem for Germans who can speak English and own a PS3.. They can just import the UK copy from Amazon or something. Ah the joys of region free gaming xP.

Posted:3 years ago

#12

Armin Seuchter
Studying Business Management

25 0 0.0
Indeed, Matthew. The United Kingdom is close enough and German gamers will be grateful to know that they can buy uncensored games for considerably less money, effectively allowing them to get more for less. I don't quite follow as to what Klaus said with regards to the industry wanting to handicap itself to that extent in a large market like Germany, but German gamers can easily evade whatever rationale the German government or the industry itself is attempting to follow in Germany.

Posted:3 years ago

#13

Private
Industry

1,176 182 0.2
Ragdoll is getting automatically removed from the German versions because Far Cry with ragdoll disabled was put on the index after the game was released because there was an easy way to re enable it. So I`m not sure what games in Germany retain the ragdoll physics in the form of it`s possible to shoot dead corpses and place them however you want because that particularly is the problem that you "defile" dead corpses and put them maybe in strange poses. If you kill somebody and he falls down the stairs and keeps moving thats fine, but not the option for the user to interfere on purpose with the dead corps i.e. shooting it to move it around.

As for the more expensive PEGI version and companies making profit out of that, that`s kind of doubtful. When you do those cuts in the German version you make a completely new SKU, so you need to put extra work and resources in that SKU get higher production and manufacturing costs at the end of the day. I don`t think there are so many German people buying the PEGI version that this would make profit, plus if Amazon sells both for the same price it`s more likely the retailer tries to rip people off and not the Publisher tries to make a lot more money by making a German USK and an Austrian PEGI version. At the end the PEGI version can get rather fast on the index of the BPjM and banned and illegal to sell in the country anyway so there is not really a great way of making a profit for that except for the retailers who might try to make a quick buck.

With tight schedules your are not going to make a few cuts submit it to the USK and look what they say and change again things. If you submit something to them you want it to pass at the first go for time and money reasons so you have to go with the safe route because you are not going to send it back and forth 5 times to see how far you can go and still get a rating. Obviously with Bulletstorm that means releasing 50% of the game for the German market. Than again thats not the worst case, I remember making the mistake of getting Resident Evil 3. Unfortunately my English wasn`t good at that time or more or less non existing so I had to put up with gray mist coming out of zombies when shooting them and once they where dead they started to blink and than disappeared.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Private on 10th February 2011 1:36am

Posted:3 years ago

#14

Jamie Watson
Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment

179 0 0.0
I wonder if this will be banned/censored in aus......

with no R18+ rating it just might happen..

Posted:3 years ago

#15

Armin Seuchter
Studying Business Management

25 0 0.0
Just thought I would post this here for the German speakers. Seems like a nice, little coincidence.

Posted:3 years ago

#16
Just buying the English version is not that easy anymore, with some games only being sold through digital distribution channels like steam. It's nearly impossible to buy non German versions there, when living in Germany.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jonathan Wehrle on 12th February 2011 7:02pm

Posted:3 years ago

#17

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