Game censorship around the world

The Republic of Korea

South Korea has made it clear that it supports freedom of expression...mostly. At one time, games which the government believed may incite further tensions between North and South Korea were banned, but those bans were lifted in 2006. Well done! However, games which exhibit significant violence and cruelty (the omni-banned Manhunt 2 and some of the GTA series among them) remain banned from sale.

Above: Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, which is set in North Korea, was initially banned in South Korea



Media in Germany is upheld to very strict decency laws. Some of the laws exist as a reaction to a certain series of… ok, to genocide. Swastikas and other Nazi insignia are banned from use outside of a historical context, and Wolfenstein 3D is apparently not historical enough, and is thus prohibited from sale.

Above: That scary flag texture might just incite a Nazi revolution! 

Violence is also dealt with, but not with outright banning. The first stop for a game in Germany is the USK, an organization much like the ESRB, which assigns ratings up to 18+. If, however, the USK refuses to rate a game, it moves onto the government, which gives the game a second evaluation. If the government disagrees with the USK, the game is released with an 18+ rating and everything is dandy. If the government agrees that the game contains questionable content, the game is placed on “The Index.” While being on The Index doesn’t outright ban a game, it prevents the game from being marketed or displayed publically, so many publishers opt to simply cancel the release. More recently, some have opted to avoid the system entirely. Sega, for example, didn’t even bother with House of the Dead: Overkill or MadWorld.

Above: The USK denied Gears of War an 18+ rating, and it was placed on The Index. That’s because Marcus Fenix doesn’t speak German, he only speaks MAN 

Some, however, attempt to tone down their game’s content in the hopes of receiving a rating, often by removing or re-coloring blood, or swapping out human combatants with robots or aliens. Sometimes the required fix is more obtuse:

Above: The German release of Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars did not contain “fanatics” (suicide bombers). Instead, “Bomb Men” ran into buildings, planted explosives and escaped. Because blowing up buildings isn’t as offensive as simultaneously blowing up buildings and committing suicide 

While it can’t be said that Germany often bans games (with the exception of the whole Nazi thing), the USK is able to passive-aggressively refuse ratings and potentially send games to The Index, knowing full-well that many publishers won’t release unrated, unmarketable games. The USK’s very strict regulations, combined with the general perception in Germany that there is an absolute scientific connection between videogame violence and actual violence (which there isn’t), makes the USK a tough organization to deal with, and effectively a means to censor games. German gamers would have good reason to rejoice if the country switched to PEGI, which is formally recognized in most other European countries.

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  • reaperman22 - October 10, 2009 11:03 a.m.

    basicly every gamer in australia is pissed at the fact that left for dead 2 is banned, i personally have never played the first 1 and probably would of never played the second 1 either but the fact they banned it has pissed me off.
  • WaggleMyBoomstick - October 7, 2009 4:02 a.m.

    it's not the OFLC's fault since Michael Atkinson on the Board of Attorney's General won't allow them to use a 18+ for games, but other forms of media can use it. Usually the OFLC Refuse Classification, then after the game has had a tiny mod, it gets reclassified 15+: the unintended age group that game was made for (the irony being lost on M.A.). They had no problem with the violence in Fallout 3 and Gears Of War. The funny thing is, on the same day L4D2 got RC, the OFLC passed 2 porn flicks. And you can see tits and say fuck with the australian equivilant of the TV14 rating on free-to-air network TV.
  • Amatarasu - October 5, 2009 1:27 a.m.

    germanys the reason i can't go on a murdurus rampage through little lamp light in fallout 3 hmmm, and i better cross austrailia off my " possible countrys to live in" list new zeland the same way?
  • Trg564 - October 3, 2009 10:47 a.m.

    Australia is so tough that Fallout 3 was almost banned for having Morphine
  • dakotak51 - October 3, 2009 9:16 a.m.

    there was an incident involving GTA IV in new zealand on which a guy protested on removing the "aussie" 15+ rating and asking for it to be reviewed by the new zealand authorities. Thankfully it worked and we know have the full, bloody R18 version!!!!
  • Cepzeu - October 3, 2009 8:44 a.m.

    Ha ha, shame on german people
  • FETALJUICE - October 3, 2009 4:09 a.m.

    Ah yes, the "Sexbox Scandal". Those reporters who came up with that sensationalist bullshit should have been fired. Hilarious though. And Greece? SHAME ON YOU!
  • GRwarrior - October 2, 2009 9:20 p.m.

    I live in Australia, and our rating system is fucked up. They banned Left for Dead 2 for christ's sake
  • bilstar - October 2, 2009 2:01 p.m.

    I remember the Mass Effect thing. Saw a lady on TV, Fox news possibly? And she was just saying stuff that wasn't accurate at all. It was just lies! It was pretty shocking really.
  • Hurricrane - October 2, 2009 12:26 p.m.

    I'm surpirsed you didn't mention how Saudi Arabia banned Pokemon
  • Arukami - October 2, 2009 6:57 a.m.

    Ahhh thgey must'nt cencor those awesome game like AI GAME 2...ahahahah!
  • TheWebSwinger - October 2, 2009 6:05 a.m.

    I love this article. It's a bit "Rah! Rah! U-S-A" for my taste, but it's so well written that I couldn't give two shits.
  • Defiance - October 2, 2009 5:55 a.m.

    Agree with Thoenik. Here in Greece we have lot's of arcades and even more cyber cafes devoted to video games nowadays. This law though was enough to send us into an era were no arcades nor any internet cafes existed.
  • dimomarg - October 2, 2009 5:22 a.m.

    I AM Greek. What is up with us? It's simple. The government is a crapload of crapful idiots...
  • TedDidlio - October 2, 2009 1:32 a.m.

    Extremely good article. All forms of state censorship, excluding censoring state secrets, inciting violence, and public displays of hardcore pornographic material in regards to young children, are abhorrent and should not be tolerated by rational human beings.
  • SHAD0WNINJA - October 2, 2009 12:44 a.m.

    I had never heard of those ones in China about "damaging the nations glory," and disturbing social order." Thank god Hong Kong isn't completely back to china then. Nice article btw.
  • And_ROOS - October 1, 2009 9 p.m.

    Its stupid here in Aus, 1 person from each state (total of 5) make the rules. They all must agree on something to pass. 4 of the 5 support 18+ rating for games. 1, from a backwards hick state full of "Christian morals" refuses to comply but never has good reason for doing so. The issue is, this wont stop online users. I STILL plan on getting L4D2 on PC via Steam, and other people i know are importing it via other sites. So in the end, nothing gets accomplished, this turd gets heat for being a backwards hick, and gamers will keep playing those "naughty games" etc etc
  • noobeater - October 1, 2009 6:33 p.m.

    @jackthemenace grz uv unveiled to the world that your a paedophile also i think the british are generally relaxed about films and games, im happy enough, besides manhunt never interested me. oh and i got gta when i was like 12, my parents didnt mind and they knew i knew i wernt gonna kill anyone
  • jackthemenace - October 1, 2009 4:50 p.m.

    sorry, just had to say that. also, australia should release the 18+ games as 15s. THAT would be fun... i miss australia... good article!
  • jackthemenace - October 1, 2009 4:43 p.m.

    bet no-one here new even though japanese porn has to have everything below the waist censored out, there is no child porn law. suck on THAT US!