German gov't considers jail time for gamers

Proposed legislation targets pixelated mayhem and virtual violence; legislators consider acts of cruelty against "human-looking characters" as reason enough to fine, imprison.

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Games in Germany already face strict censorship laws--titles such as Gears of War are deemed to be too violent, and the German board of classification (the Unterhaltungssoftware Selbskontrolle) refuses to give them a rating, effectively meaning that the games can be sold only at adults-only retailers.

Nazi symbols are also banned in the country, except for art and educational purposes--so games which use them, including the Wolfenstein series, are also banned from being released in Germany. Even games such as Dead Rising are regarded as crossing a threshold of acceptability since violence towards zombies is considered to be too close to violence towards real people.

Legislation currently being drafted would take these standards a step further. The bill, which was introduced last week by the states of Bavaria and Lower Saxony, proposes a new offence. Those found guilty of "cruel violence on humans or human-looking characters" could face fines or jail time of up to 12 months--and those it applies to include developers, retailers, and consumers, reports UK newspaper The Guardian.

The proposed legislation comes on the heels of a shooting on November 20 where an 18-year-old student went on a shooting rampage and wounded six people in his school before killing himself. Backers of the bill also point to the 2002 Erfurt massacre where another German student shot 13 people, according to the paper. Both incidents have been blamed in the media on violent games, and much has been written about the two shooters' fascination with games such as Half-Life: Counter-Strike.

The proposed legislation makes the future for German game companies unclear. One company, Far Cry and Crysis developer Crytek, has already made known its plans to relocate to another country should any legislation of this kind be made law.

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