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Let's discuss the censorship in the German version of Wolfenstein 2

Oynox

Banned
Member
Oct 25, 2017
884
#1
Update: Well this escalated quickly. Some things I want to note:
  1. Please read at least this article!
  2. This topic should not be about Germany's way of dealing with the past. It is fine, you literally cannot go anywhere in Germany without being reminded of its past. This certain situation has not very much to do with that anyways.
  3. Instead I wanted to highlight the over the top adaption for the German market. German law does not require developers to do most of these changes, especially the most important ones (removal of the mentioning of Jews, concentration camps etc.
  4. I did not go enough into detail about the law, unfortunately, because I hoped some would read the linked articles. Some short words about that: Law only forbids unconstitutional use of swastikas etc. They are of course allowed for education, science or art. Here lays the main problem I originally wanted to talk about: Games are not considered art by German law, at least there is no ruling that says otherwise. The last ruling is from the 90s, since then video games were even accepted as part of culture by Chancellor Merkel at this year's GamesCom. The problem: No publisher or developer want to take the risk of their game not getting allowed on the German market and thus abide the ruling of the 90s
  5. Thus as someone else fittingly noted:
    Worst part about all of these is that these changes are just made out of fear and not actually required.
  6. Sorry again for the sensational title.
  7. Also sorry for those who felt spoilered. I marked the little text I guessed some felt as spoilery appropriately.
Also for further reading, here is an excellent, elaborate article on the whole issues. It really is well written and worth a read, especially if you understand German. Thanks for the hint:

Firstly I want to recommend this article by the "study-group historical sciences and digital games"/"Arbeistkreis Geschichtswissenschaften und Digitale Spiele":
"Wider die Selbstzensur – Das Dritte Reich, nationalsozialistische Verbrechen und der Holocaust im Digitalen Spiel"
http://gespielt.hypotheses.org/1449
https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=de&ie=UTF-8&u=gespielt.hypotheses.org/1449&edit-text=&act=url

Original post titled "Wolfenstein 2 ignores the Holocaust in the German version":

Kind off, at least. Sorry for the slightly clickbait title but I actually think it is true. Mods, change it, if it is not suitable.

This is a topic which was not covered very much in international media, because it mostly concerns the German version and Germany's law and view of culture and art. However, I think there is some potential for a discussion here nonetheless.

Polygon reported about that some week ago on basis of a YouTube comparison of the two different versions. Here is the video and as Polygon noted, it is supposed to be slightly spoilerish:


In this video you can already see and hear many, many differences between the version, some worse than others. Let me explain some, especially for those who did not watch the video:

  • Hitler has no mustache
  • He is called "Heiler" or "Chancellor" instead of Hitler or Fuhrer
  • There are no swastikas
  • No word of any Jews

The first difference is laughable, I actually do not understand why they changed that since that was no problem in any game before. The second one, well, there seems to be a problem with the use of any words related to Nazi Germany in video games for German versions. Several other games before had to remove any hint towards Nazi Germany as well, The Saboteur is an excellent example.

Also, Swastikas need to be removed in Germany. This and the removing of anything Nazi related is prescribed in German law, because video games do not fall under the protection of "art" of the constitution. This has to do with a verdict from 1994 when video games were quite young. Since then, nothing has changed.

Video games are not considered art by law!

Besides that, which is highly disputable on it's own, the game messes with Germany's history in a biiig way, as the author Christian Schiffer elaborated for German BR (Bayrischer Rundfunk - Bavarian broadcast). Crappy Google translation to this very important article!
Short notice on the author: He is the founder of WASD a "bookazine" (book + magazin, releasing twice per year) on video game culture, which features high quality articles on games, their history and culture and beyond. He also writes articles for several other German papers and they just failed Kickstarter funding for an international version of WASD.

Basically, the game ignores the whole existence as Jews as part of the German history altogether, including the existence of concentration camps.
While the protagonist of the game is "a son of a Polish Jew" he only is the son of "a pole" in the German version. Whereas the mother was "turned in [to the Nazis] by her husband", she was just "unmasked" kind off like a spy by her husband. Finally, she originally died in a concentration camp in New Mexico. Not so in the German version in which she died in an undefined imprisonment.

There are no "Jews" in the German game, only "traitors"!

It is simply unbelievable. This version of the game, especially tailored for the German marked, shoots beyond any kind of censorship by censoring the true history of Germany, censoring the victims of the Holocaust.

Here is a Google translated article on the game as well, talking about the aspect of the game as art a little bit more.

The only way this can ever change in my opinion is, that any developer or publisher needs the nuts not to adapt their game for the German market, not to accept the denial of a rating and go the court to fight for the freedom of art. The last sentence is more than 20 (!) years old!


Questions:

Do you consider games as art? Do you think games should be considered as art by the government and should be protected by the law, just as other pieces of media like film, music and conventional "art"?

ZeniMax claims that they believe that the game still has the same message, that even beyond historical context a repressive, fascist regime needs proper resistance. Do you think that the game still has the same aesthetics and more importantly the same expressiveness as a anti-facistic game with the adaptions for the German market?


TL;DR: The German version of Wolfenstein 2 does not censor swastikas and Nazi-Germany related terminology, but also ignores the existence of Jews in Nazi-Germany, as well as concentration camps. All this because video games are not considered art by German law.


For everyone who understands German, HERE is a short 15 minute audio discussion on the topic with Christian Schiffer, HERE is a longer podcast on the whole game starring ex-GameStar author André Peschke and others.
 
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Oct 27, 2017
736
#6
I'm not sure why they are cutting out Jews or the term "Jews", I don't think that's required by any law. How was this handled in the first game?

Kinda reminds me of the ridiculous change in Tales of Xillia where they changed the name of the main character (Jude) just because their minds seem to wander in weird directions.
 
Oct 27, 2017
761
United Kingdom
#7
As a Brit it would be unfair of me to judge German law, but isn't this a case of the developer being between a rock and a hard place - the game is based on the Nazi movement, which can't be directly referred to in Germany. Maybe it was a case of alter the game, or don't release it in Germany?

Doesn't Germany have a few odd laws? I'm sure that is why Nintendo moved their EU base from there.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,532
Toronto
#9
The laws haven't kept up with art in this case.

The law needs to be reexamined and amended. These changes are laughable and like you point out, bordering on offensive.

The laws designed around not belittling the events of WW2 and the Holocaust are resulting in the exact opposite of their intention here.
 
Oct 25, 2017
3,733
USA, Sol 3, Universe 1
#10
As a Jew, I am very against the censorship (well, I am anti-censorship in general) of the Swastika and the atrocities of world war 2, including the holocaust. I wish Germany didn’t censor its games and other forms of media like this. If you don’t remember the past, what’s going to help you learn from it to avoid repeating it in the future?
The laws haven't kept up with art in this case.

This needs to be reexamined and amended. These changes are laughable and like you point out, bordering on offensive.

The laws designed around not belittling the events of WW2 and the Holocaust are resulting in the exact opposite of their intention here.
This.
 
OP
OP
Oynox

Oynox

Banned
Member
Oct 25, 2017
884
#11
There are laws to deal with and they've gone ultra-cautious by the sounds of things.

Why on earth would they risk going to court?
The constitution allows freedom of art. The removal of swastikas etc. is only based on a decision from nearly 25 years ago. They could risk it to save money adapting their future games for the German market, get more Germans to buy their game directly to release and well, they could to gaming in Germany a favor.

However, I know, it is only about money so it is highly unlikely that this will happen. Maybe if there was a bigger German publisher around.


Regardless, no game before that censored so much, especially in regards to Jewish existence. I still believe that they went a huge step too far this time.
 
#14
Its hilarious that they removed his mustache so he obviously cant be Hitler.

Did they took notices from the Persona handbook? At least adding shades is cool.



I find it ridiculous that germany has to be so hush about what happened back then in video games.

If anything they should be the ones that should acknowledge it the most. Its not like Hitler is portrayed as a good guy in the game.
 
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10k

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,954
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
#15
Why doesn't Germany just acknowledge they fucked up with Hitler and Nazi's and just let portrayals of them in media fly by?

Ignoring a six year period of your country's history seems like a mistake.

It's not like German youth don't know what happened all those years ago through other forms of media and education.

I'm not German so I don't know the laws in place. I'd love to be enlightened though.
 
Oct 28, 2017
9,983
#17
i don't think the swastika part is just them "being cautious" - even sniper warrior which was very open about their representation of the nazis (including mentioning them by nazis, hitler being hitler, all kind of nazi language and propaganda being around) EXCEPT for the swastikas, which were the only thing changed.

that being said, its a shame indeed. i can understand the fear of painting nazi symbolism during times where germany try its best to look forward and be more inclusive and progressive but sweeping the dirt under the rug forever will one day backfire
 
Oct 25, 2017
3,286
#19
This should be more offensive to German authorities than the uncensored version honestly. I don't believe your title is clickbait, given what you said. A Nazi-themed game where "Jews" don't exist and are relabelled "traitors"? Yikes.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,773
#20
It's understandable from the developer standpoint, there are a lot of changes that need to be made to release games in certain areas. Like with WoW and having all skeleton / dead things removed from the game from the Chinese version. I'm not really sure if there was a requirement for them removing these things or if it was just precautionary to avoid getting a banned release or something. Also kinda reminds me of Left 4 Dead and Australia. Except both of those examples aren't trying to avoid actual events.
 
OP
OP
Oynox

Oynox

Banned
Member
Oct 25, 2017
884
#21
I'm not sure why they are cutting out Jews or the term "Jews", I don't think that's required by any law. How was this handled in the first game?
I am not entirely sure about the first game but I do not think that Jews were censored in any video game before. Law basically requires no censorship, devs do that out of fear of a 25 year old sentence on video games. The most known "needed" censorship is the removal of swastikas, a common method for games on the German market.

Maybe it was a case of alter the game, or don't release it in Germany?
To some extent, yes. They definitely had to remove swastikas, probably some terminology like "Fuhrer, Reichsmacht" etc. but I hardly think that Hitler's moustache was a real problem, nor that it was anything near sensible to ignore the Jew's part of the history.

That's not a beard, it's a mustache.
Thank you for the correction!
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,657
#22
Every Wolfenstein game has been heavily censored or outright banned in Germany dating back to Wolfenstein 3D. It actually seems like they censored less than usual this time around.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,528
#23
that being said, its a shame indeed. i can understand the fear of painting nazi symbolism during times where germany try its best to look forward and be more inclusive and progressive but sweeping the dirt under the rug forever will one day backfire
No sane person in germany is sweeping that stuff under the rug.
 
Oct 27, 2017
5,804
#25
Why doesn't Germany just acknowledge they fucked up with Hitler and Nazi's and just let portrayals of them in media fly by?
The intent of the law to ban the public display of swastikas is not to sweep the past under the rug, it's to prevent their glorification in the present. Movies, documentaries, books et al. are exempt because they're considered art/educational, video games are not.
 
Oct 27, 2017
13
#26
Just as a little PSA:
Germany generally does pretty well at dealing with its history.
Nazi Germany gets covered VERY extensively in history classes and the likes.
It's really just games that are the odd man out here.
 
Oct 28, 2017
9,983
#28
No sane person in germany is sweeping that stuff under the rug.
i'm not blaming the sane people of germany there - i recognize germanys effort of changing their image and today they are one of the best places for progressive thinking in an increasingly worrysome europe, or at least it seems like from the outside

but the people in charge of these outdated regulations and the publishers who resign to their will, they are doing the sweeping and it's not a good thing to do. it's pointless, i trust the general inteligence of the german population to understand that wolfenstein is about nazis and the cover up is just... lame? and pointless in the lack of a better word
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,532
Toronto
#29
Why doesn't Germany just acknowledge they fucked up with Hitler and Nazi's and just let portrayals of them in media fly by?

Ignoring a six year period of your country's history seems like a mistake.

It's not like German youth don't know what happened all those years ago through other forms of media and education.

I'm not German so I don't know the laws in place. I'd love to be enlightened though.
So, Germany does not hide their past and are very open and honest about it being a terrible point in their history. They teach it very directly and honestly in schools, etc.

They are very serious about people taking it seriously, and thus regulate where Nazi imagery can and cannot be used. For example, if someone walks down the street sporting a Nazi symbols, they can be arrested. They don't bs around with it.

Exeptions are made for art (books, film, etc) depicting that imagery. However in Germany, games are not legally considered art. Thus resulting in the problems in the OP. Legally they can't release the game there uncensored, so it was changed. Problem is it defeats the purpose of the law's original intention and results in censorship of the realities of WW2 and the themes the game is trying to explore.
 
Oct 27, 2017
899
#30
There's a holocaust museum in Germany, plus memorials dedicated to the atrocities they themselves commited during WW2. These comments of them hiding their history are simply not true. They're clearly ashamed of it though, and they have specific laws restricting usage of Nazi iconography. I don't really see how Bethesda did anything wrong here. Plus, importing a non German copy of the game is always an option for the gamers in Germany who want to play it uncut.
 

L Thammy

Spacenoid
Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,729
#33
I'm really curious as to if these are actually legally required. I know that Germany has had these kinds of issues before, and have dealt with them before - "no nazi" symbols with crossed out swastikas were banned for some point, and the Federal Court ruled to allow them or something like that. So I imagine either way could be the case here.
 
Oct 25, 2017
3,284
#34
Germany is very strict towards video games even when not involving Nazis as well. Video games in Germany do not enjoy the same free speech protections other forms of art do. I guess they're not considered art in the eyes of the law
 
Oct 25, 2017
4,665
#35
1. Yes, games are art and that ruling desperately needs an update. Not sure how you'd go about that or how often precedents change in Germany though; I only know the U.S. legal system.

2. As far as I'm aware, the law only requires you to remove swastikas and any direct reference to the Nazi Party (this was baked into the German constitution by the Allies and will never change). Removing all references to Jewish people is...wow, Bethesda. Just wow. I'm speechless really.

Do you think Jewish people only exist in a Nazi German context? Is that what you actually think? Jews become "traitors"...what the actual fuck. That's literally Nazi propaganda.

Doesn't Germany have a few odd laws? I'm sure that is why Nintendo moved their EU base from there.
Germany does have some weird laws around games. For instance, you can only sell mature games (whatever the rating equivalent is) on digital storefronts at certain times of night. Yes, really.

They also insist on having their own rating system in addition to PEGI that is absolutely massive and ruins boxart. Games like Left 4 Dead had to censor blood to green in the past to please the rating board, though I don't know if that's the case anymore.
 
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L Thammy

Spacenoid
Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,729
#36
Why doesn't Germany just acknowledge they fucked up with Hitler and Nazi's and just let portrayals of them in media fly by?

Ignoring a six year period of your country's history seems like a mistake.

It's not like German youth don't know what happened all those years ago through other forms of media and education.

I'm not German so I don't know the laws in place. I'd love to be enlightened though.
Not German either, but from what I gather, Germany has kids visit concentration camps, and members of the German military have an obligation not to follow unethical orders so they can't claim they were "just following orders". I don't think the issue is that they don't acknowledge they fucked up.
 
Oct 30, 2017
390
#37
Why doesn't Germany just acknowledge they fucked up with Hitler and Nazi's and just let portrayals of them in media fly by?

Ignoring a six year period of your country's history seems like a mistake.

It's not like German youth don't know what happened all those years ago through other forms of media and education.

I'm not German so I don't know the laws in place. I'd love to be enlightened though.
As video games are not considered art they're not allowed to show Swastikas. All the other changes were just made because Bethesda didn't want to take any risks. To be honest, there is zero chance that the game would have been banned if they didn't change the part about Jews.
It's really ironic (and somewhat depressing) that we're not allowed to kill virtual Nazis though.

PS: Trust me, Germany doesn't ignore the past. It's a huge part in School and there are many, many memorials out here to make sure that we will never forget.
 

Skux

Member
Oct 26, 2017
1,814
#38
Worst part about all of these is that these changes are just made out of fear and not actually required.
Yeah. Given the restrictions in Germany it sounds like they've gone the super-cautious route to avoid getting into trouble. But that of course raises its own issues.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,895
#39
As far as I know Germans don't try to hide they awful things the Nazi party did, they remember as the most shameful part of their history, hence the ban of all Nazi stuff.

But it's backfiring in this case, since the game is a clear criticism all that.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,947
London
#40
In Wolfenstein you play as a ragtag bunch of anti fascist heroes working to destroy the Nazi regime for example so it's not like it's glorifying the atrocities of Nazism. Same with any other WW2 linked game. Seems like no publisher wants to get caught in the financial mire of fighting the case for video games as art in a court.
 
Oct 25, 2017
321
#41
Wait a second. I get removing swastikas because of that Nazi symbolism law and being art and so on. This happens all the time. Buuut it looks like the developers didn't understand the reasons for this law and went to degrees with thei self-censorship at which it looks as if Germany would be full of holocaust deniers. Which is absolutely not the truth.

The developers really fucked that up. They could have easily used words like "Jew", "Hitler" or "Holocaust" without any fear of being denied to release on the German market. It is not forbidden to portray such things even in media which is not considered art by law (which is stupid but a different topic). All they REALLY have to do according to law is remove the Nazi symbols, nothing else.

but the people in charge of these outdated regulations and the publishers who resign to their will, they are doing the sweeping and it's not a good thing to do. it's pointless, i trust the general inteligence of the german population to understand that wolfenstein is about nazis and the cover up is just... lame? and pointless in the lack of a better word
As said above and as far as I know, there is no regulation that would have forced them to go THAT far. It was unnecessary.
 
Oct 26, 2017
748
#42
This is just Bethesda being overly cautious. If you look at Call of Duty: WWII, they only removed certain symbols there.
 
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Oct 25, 2017
1,602
#43
Wolfenstein's imagery can be misconstrued as adulation for the 3rd Reich (the text has nothing to do with it) and would be indexed or banned. This is separate from the issue that video games still are graded on a different curve by the BPjM.
 
Oct 25, 2017
220
#45
As a German I'm really ashamed of such backward thinking legislation :( We need to be much more open minded in this regard (we are in many many other things).

But to be fair, I think we made a great job in the historical revision of WW2.
 
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Oct 25, 2017
3,558
#46
The wording on the OP and some of the posters make it seems like they did that out of contempt instead of being overzealous. :v
I know that it wasn't the intention, it was just my first impression.

On topic thoguh, would be cool if Germany revised their laws in regarding to games. Sie sind auch Kunst, meine Lieben!
 
Oct 25, 2017
9,349
#47
I mean, did people expect otherwise? they do this to all their games.

Remember how I have no mouth and i must scream was literally impossible to finish because the removed an entire chapted due to the character in it being a nazi scientist and taking place in a concentration camp?
 
Oct 25, 2017
7,371
Houston, Texas
#48
Its hilarious that they removed his mustache so he obviously cant be Hitler.

Did they took notices from the Persona handbook? At least adding shades is cool.



I find it ridiculous that germany has to be so hush about what happened back then in video games.

If anything they should be the ones that should acknowledge it the most. Its not like Hitler is portrayed as a good guy in the game.
I thought Persona did that due to Japanese laws?
 
Oct 25, 2017
77
#49
Germany does have some weird laws around games. For instant, you can only sell mature games (whatever the rating equivalent is) on digital storefronts at certain times of night.
That's not true. I'm German and we can buy mature games whenever we want. It's just that some of these games are censored, which doesn't happen as frequently as it once did though. Wolfenstein is just an extreme (and frankly quite embarrassing) example of that.
 
Oct 25, 2017
4,562
#50
The intent of the law to ban the public display of swastikas is not to sweep the past under the rug, it's to prevent their glorification in the present. Movies, documentaries, books et al. are exempt because they're considered art/educational, video games are not.
Even exploitation titles?