It only took the better part of two decades for Germany to realize id Software’s Doom and Doom II aren’t going to debase its youth. Yep, the Fatherland just officially lifted a 17-year ban on sales to minors of the first-person shooter (and its sequel) that more or less engineered and defined the genre when it launched for PCs back in 1993.
I remember playing the shareware version, picking it up on a single 3.5-inch floppy disk and playing through the first sequence of levels, less concerned with the point-and-shoot mechanics than admiring the way objects like fireballs illuminated their surroundings as they hurtled down corridors or over glowing electric-green ooze. Even then, the “violence” was laughable, just swathes of multicolored low-res 320 x 200 pixel (VGA) blotches that looked less like something’s innards than an exploding Space Invader.
German officials took umbrage to Doom when it first launched anyway, placing it on a list of titles restricted from sales to minors. The German Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien, or “Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons,” actually tossed it into the same category as pornography. It’s a process known as Indizierung, or ”indexing,” and the legal consequences are severe.
Like: you can’t sell it to minors, it’s not allowed to be shown (or played) in the presence of minors, it can only be sold in a shop (no mail-order sales or imports), it can’t be rented through a shop accessible to minors and it can’t be advertised anywhere a minor might see it. I know—and here we think it’s rough battling would-be government censorship on this side of the pond.
What’s especially galling about Germany’s rating system? It’s inconsistencies. For instance, German officials just let Epic’s upcoming third-person tactical shooter Gears of War 3 through without being “indexed.” This, despite the fact that the first two Gears of War games are still, to speak a little crossover lingo, verboten.
While in principle I prefer Europe’s relaxed attitude toward sexual content and less relaxed attitude toward violence (it’s regrettably the inverse in the U.S.) it’s stuff like this that reminds us how utterly ridiculous most government censorship is.