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German gamers face jail for acts of virtual violence

Bobbie Johnson
London Guardian
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Players and creators of video games could face imprisonment for acts of virtual violence under draft legislation being drawn up by two of Germany's state governments.

Politicians in Bavaria and Lower Saxony have proposed a new offence that will punish "cruel violence on humans or human-looking characters" inside games. Early drafts suggest that infringers should face fines or up to 12 months' jail for promoting or enacting in-game violence.

The scheme comes in response to a shooting last month in the town of Emsdetten on the Dutch border, where Sebastian Bosse, an 18-year-old games fan, stormed into his former school and wounded 37 people before killing himself.

The incident caused outrage and the bill's sponsor, the Bavarian interior minister Günther Beckstein, claimed there was a direct connection between Bosse's actions and his love of the game Counter Strike. "It is absolutely beyond any doubt that such killer games desensitise unstable characters and can have a stimulating effect," he said.

Germany already has drastic censorship laws for games, and industry officials are preparing organised protests against the proposals. Research has yet to show a link between violence in video games and violent acts in the real world.

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