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Germany softens ban on Nazi symbols in computer games

FILE PHOTO - Visitors play the video game "BlackDesert" during the Gamescom fair in Cologne, Germany, August 18, 2016. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

BERLIN (Reuters) - Computer games that feature symbols of unconstitutional organizations such as the swastika of Hitler’s Nazi party could be sold in Germany in future after the game classification body said on Thursday it was changing how it assessed them.

A clause in the criminal code that allows such symbols to be used in a “socially adequate” way will now be applied to games just as it is to films, the German Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK) said on Thursday.

“In this context socially adequate means that symbols of unconstitutional organizations can be used in a title if it serves an artistic or scientific purpose or helps depict current events or history,” USK Managing Director Elisabeth Secker said.

She added that games which clearly express opposition to the unconstitutional organization or its ideology, for example, could be considered “socially adequate”.

All computer games sold on storage media in Germany have to be checked by the USK, which issues age ratings, but until now producers whose games contained banned symbols could not even hand them in for assessment, Secker said.

Now they will be able to hand them in - as long as they point out that they contain unconstitutional symbols - and the USK’s independent classification committees will then decide on a case-by-case basis whether to allow the games to go on sale.

Secker said the general ban on symbols of unconstitutional organizations nonetheless remained in place.

There was controversy in Germany over the shooter game “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus”, which is set in a fictional 1961 after the Nazis won World War Two, because it appeared without swastikas and Hitler’s moustache in Germany.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Hugh Lawson