In Germany, Lower Saxony and Bavaria are in the process of trying to pass an anti-game bill through their parliament. Germany is already a special case for game developers because of the strict guidelines a game must adhere to before it can be sold in the country.
The two states have drafted a bill that would subject developers, distributors and players of video games whose goal is to inflict "cruel violence on humans or human-looking characters" to a fine and a maximum of one year in jail.
Read that sentence again carefully. Developers. The people who make the game. Distributors.The people who sell the game. Players. The people who play the game. These three groups of people will be fined and/or jailed if they make, distribute or play a game that does cruel violence to humans or human looking characters. Mind you, this is in-game cruel violent behavior. I'm not exactly sure what their definition of cruel violent behavior is, but this whole thing started because a teenager who played Counter-strike went to his school with a variety of weapons and wounded 37 people, so let's assume that cruel violent behavior is shooting other people and otherwise doing physical harm to them in non-sport circumstances. Meaning Boxing as sport is okay, penalty fights in a Hockey game are probably not okay, and head butting someone during the World Cup is definitely not okay. Any game where you kill someone, definitely not okay.
The Top 10 PC Games for the week of Nov 19 - 25, 2006:
- Sims 2: Pets
- Battlefield 2142
- Bejeweled 2 Deluxe
- Desperate Housewives: The Game
- Neverwinter Nights 2
- Microsoft Flight Simulator X Deluxe
- World of Warcraft
- Company of Heroes
- Sims 2: Happy Holiday Stuff
- Medieval 2: Total War
Of these, only Bejeweled 2 and Microsoft Flight Simulator X would be allowed to be sold in Germany -- all other games involve humans and the potential for harming a human in cruel ways. (The worst candidate is likely the Sims 2: Pets, in which you can torture your sims by denying them basic human rights, as well as conduct acts of animal cruelty)
I don't think it's really fair to fault the player for doing something the developer allowed the player to do -- if you want to promote change in the industry away from the violent actions portrayed in games, the ones to go after are the developers. Distributors can only sell what developers make, and players can only play what the developers make. But at the end of this, it seems ridiculous to me that a government should hold the right to punish people based on what they choose to make, sell or play in games. Or maybe all this regulation is a sign that games have need to cross that boundary into art and self-expression.