The hysteria, however, is huge. Even before the latest amokrun the press were fixated with games and their effects on children. Crytek are big news in Germany just on their success alone. Our latest game is currently attracting more development dollars than any German movie in history. You'd think the press would be interested in us purely because of this, but no.
We had Der Spiegel, roughly equivalent to Time Magazine in the US, and the most popular weekly magazine in Europe, run a five page center spread on us a few months back, before the Emsdetten shooting and the latest furore. Even this relatively restrained and respected news magazine couldn't resist focusing almost the entire article on violence in games. They even printed a picture of children playing some unnamed game at the Leipzig Games Convention, with the words of our CEO, Cevat Yerli, underneath saying how "we don't make games for children."
That's pretty mild. The tabloids have headlines screeching about “killer games”, and stating as fact that children become killers because of playing such games. The TV stations when they covered this issue recently kept playing the youtube video of the "angry German kid" alongside supposedly serious coverage. If you've seen the video, you will understand what kind of impression this would give viewers. I don't even believe the video is genuine, as he doesn't even appear to be moving the mouse when he is shooting people in between bouts of keyboard smashing. But facts don't appear to be all that important in the German "killer game" debate right now.
Since the shooting, Der Spiegal returned to the subject again last week, reporting on the violent murder of a homeless man in Cottbus, in deepest East Germany. The man was kicked in the face repeatedly until he died. The autopsy found "a profound demolition of the face". The opening line of this article painted the obvious bias in it.
At least Der Spiegel had the decency to write about the other factors in the case, albeit almost as a footnote. What they didn't feel appropriate to comment on in the lede, was the fact that he'd claimed the killing was a result of him playing the game and having drunk a bottle of beer, two bottles of wine and an entire bottle of chocolate liqueur before the incident. Nor did it mention that he was a neo-Nazi obsessed with violence. He'd even scrawled "Heil Hitler", "White Power Hooligans" and multiple swastikas on the walls of his holding cell before the trial.A 19 years old man has confessed that he killed a homeless man with kicks and blows to his face. His motive was frustration he stated at court. Right before this act of brutality he had been stopped by the local police and had been playing a violent computer game – losing every match.
Of course, it was the game's fault that the neo-Nazi caved in this man's skull. You know what the game was? Maybe Gears of War or Dead Rising, two games recently refused classification in Germany? The usual suspects of CounterStrike, Manhunt or Grand Theft Auto? No, it was SmackDown vs Raw 2006 - a wrestling game.
Wrestling is considered family entertainment in the US, but a simulation of Wrestling is considered in Germany a "violent computer game" with the ability to stir previously innocent neo-Nazi hooligans to acts of immense violence. It beggars belief and its little surprise that Germany is becoming the laughing stock of the European press.
Despite the incredulity of these articles, the lack of evidence, and the bemusement of the rest of Europe, Germans remain adamant that these games are evil. A recent survey suggested as many as 66% of Germans would support a ban on these games. On the other hand, despite the known dangers of passive smoking, the certainty of a nasty and painful death for thousands every year, the majority of Germans are opposed to the banning of smoking even in restaurants.
With a majority of Germans thinking you are evil and the press and politicians baying for you to be thrown in jail, it can make life uncomfortable. Thankfully Frankfurt is a wonderful city, the richest in Europe, where people are more interested in making money than moralizing about the contents of games. When my friend recently dared to mention his exact profession to a woman in one of the great nightclubs here, he was surprised that her reaction was "that's a fantastic job, you must make a ton of cash."
I love Frankfurt. I love Germany. I think it's a great country to live in. I really hope they don't make me leave.