EU Banning Violent Video Games
After watching the video game
"Manhunt" EU politicians agreed: Games like this must be banned.
Germany the current EU president initiated the debate after several recent
violent attacks in Germany committed by youths who played video games.
The first example was in April 2002 when former
Erfurt school pupil Robert SteinhÃ¤user shot dead 13 teachers, two pupils and a
police officer before killing himself. Police investigations discovered that
SteinhÃ¤user was a games fanatic
Then 18 year old student, Sebastian B. who played
these ‘games’ in all his spare time according to people who knew him, used his
school in Emsdetten to recreate scenes out of the computer video game “Counter
Strike”. He went beserk at his school with two rifles, air pistol and pipe
bombs, injuring 35 people before killing himself.
This added a new impetus to the national debate
about banning violent video games. The deputy parliamentary leader Wolfgang
Bosbach, said: "If it’s true that the 18-year-old perpetrator intensively
played so-called killer games, it’s finally time for parliament to take
The interior minister of the eastern state of
Brandenburg, JÃ¶rg SchÃ¶nbohm, said: "Killer games make a fatal contribution
to a growing tendency towards violence and they promote aggressive behavior.
That’s why strict action is needed against games that glorify violence."
Now the debate has spread to the EU, on Tuesday EU
politicians discussed a Europe wide regulation of violent video games in
Dresden. Brigitte Zypries, the German Justice Minister screened a 2 minute
excerpt from the computer game; “Manhunt” in which players get points for
‘killing’ their rivals and the more gruesome the more points.
During this session a framework for action against
these violent games was ratified, however it is up to the individual states to
try and ban them. Cross-border cooperation will begin with an analysis of what
regulations are already in place in different countries. Following that,
Brussels plans to publish a blacklist of banned games on a website called
"InSafe" as well as developing closer relationships with game
producers and Internet providers over the next few years. Europe-wide standards
and under-age control are the long-term goal of the initiative.
This doesn’t go far enough for Bavaria’s interior
minister GÃ¼nther Beckstein. He wants an outright ban of games with realistic
killing scenes — dubbed "Killerspiele" ("killer games") in
Germany — on the Internet. This could be difficult due to the global and
unregulated nature of the Web: "We can’t ban anything on the Internet. We
might as well try to stop the rain," Zypris said, commenting on the
proposal. "The protection of children knows no borders," said EU
commissioner Franco Frattini.
Beckstein wants to take the case to the Bundesrat,
the upper house of German parliament. His move comes at an apt time: Emotions
are running high again after two 17-year-old men killed their friend’s parents
in an extremely violent attack last Saturday in the village of Tessin in the
state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.
In the absence of any clear motive, police are
investigating the gaming background of the two high school students. Both were
actively involved in their school’s after-school computer club, reports the
regional newspaper Schweriner Zeitung. Police are now checking their
hard drives to determine whether the two — described by locals as
"friendly and polite" — also played "Killerspiele".
If things go according to Beckstein’s plans, the
possession and distribution of games with realistic killing scenarios could
become a criminal offence punishable by prison or fines. Zypries responded
with, "a ban on material that glorifies violence is already in
place." In her opinion, Germany’s three-tier system based on age limitation,
classification and prohibition is enough.
Whether a link between violent games and violent
behaviour really exists is controversial. One argument is that consumption of
violent media increases aggression because it desensitizes emotional response
— but it is unclear if this translates into actual violence or if people
attracted to violent media may have more aggressive personalities in the first
Then there is the
"copycat" thesis — which believes that playing violent
scenarios triggers imitation in real life — is countered by the argument that
brutal games may actually reduce violence: Rather than taking it out on the
real world, players satisfy aggressive instincts in the virtual one.