While the Wii and PlayStation 3 launches were hogging headlines in the US, games were also getting attention in Germany--for all the wrong reasons. On November 20, the central European nation was shocked when an 18-year-old went on a shooting rampage at his former school in the town of Emsdetten, near the Dutch border. After wounding six, the attacker, who also had explosives strapped to his body, turned the gun on himself.
Almost immediately, parallels were drawn to the 2002 Erfurt Massacre, where a student shot 13 in Germany, and the 1999 Columbine Massacre, where two students killed 12 and wounded 24 at a Colorado high school. As was the case with Erfurt and Columbine, media reports on the Emsdetten tragedy focused on the perpetrator's fascination with violent games, called "killer games" In Germany. The subsequent furor has led many members of the German parliament, or Bundestag, to call for a ban on all violent games.
"Killer games make a fatal contribution to a growing tendency towards violence and they promote aggressive behavior," Jörg Schönbohm, the interior minister of Brandenburg, a province in the former East Germany, told Der Speigel magazine. "That's why strict action is needed against games that glorify violence."
Currently, games deemed overly violent, like Dead Rising and Gears of War, are refused certification by the Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK)--the German equivalent of the Entertainment Software Rating Board--putting them in the same category as pornography. If released in Germany, an unrated game is available only in stores where minors are not permitted (for example, adult book shops) and are regulated by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien).
With the threat of an outright ban of violent games looming, one of Germany's most prominent developers is considering moving. In an video interview with the Focus TV network, Crytek CEO and president Cevat Yerli said that if the ban becomes law, "Perhaps there won't be a Crytek in Germany. That would mean we'd have to get out of here and go elsewhere."
Crytek has good reason to be concerned. The ban would almost certainly apply to its critically acclaimed 2004 first-person shooter Far Cry and its high-profile current project, Crysis, which is being bankrolled and published by Electronic Arts. According to the Focus TV report, Crysis has a budget of more than 20 million euros (approximately $27 million), which would make it one of the most expensive games ever made. Though they would not divulge an estimate of Crysis' cost, EA reps told GameSpot that figure is "not accurate."