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First Person Shooters (Games) Games Politics

Berlin Wall 'Death Strip' Game Sparks Outrage In Germany 193

Posted by Soulskill
from the sweet-zombie-reagan dept.
gzipped_tar writes "According to Spiegel Online, 'A new computer game where players assume the roles of border guards and shoot people trying to escape from communist East Germany has unleashed a storm of controversy in Germany. The game's creator says he wanted to teach young people about history, but he has been accused of glorifying violence. ... The name of the multi-player FPS game, 1,378 (kilometers), was inspired by the length of the border between East and West Germany. ... [Players] choose between the roles of the border guards or would-be escapees: the escapee only has one goal — to get over the wall, but the border guard has more options, and can shoot or capture the escapee. He can also swap sides and try to clamber over the border defenses himself.' By choosing to play the border guard and kill the escapee, the player would win an in-game medal from the government of East Germany. But then the guard would time-travel forward to the year 2000, where he would have to stand trial. Jens Stober, 23, designed the game as a media art student at the University of Design, Media and Arts in Karlsruhe. He said that his intention was to teach young people about German history."
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Berlin Wall 'Death Strip' Game Sparks Outrage In Germany

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  • by suso (153703) * on Friday October 01, 2010 @10:31PM (#33767898) Homepage Journal

    Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. However there is such a thing as tact.

    • by Moryath (553296) on Friday October 01, 2010 @10:42PM (#33767950)

      Actually, sometimes you need to leave "tact" aside and actually teach history.

      This one is pretty clear - you can be in the role of attempting to escape, or see what it was like for the guards. TFA finally gets around to pointing out that players who choose to shoot and kill those who attempt escape face the consequences for their actions by having their character stand trial later for the crime. They also give the choice of killing or not killing.

      Too many people want to put an entire discussion into pure binary good-and-evil, or rewrite the history books in many cases. It doesn't help. And you can certainly make a real simulation of a tough situation without "glorifying" violence.

      • by Kismet (13199) <pmccombs@BALDWINacm.org minus author> on Saturday October 02, 2010 @12:02AM (#33768332) Homepage

        Some ideas are not effectively conveyed through the language of entertainment. Sometimes the mode of learning conveys a stronger message than the content of the lesson. Worse than rewriting history is to trivialize it. Occasionally we have good reason to rewrite history, such as when new evidence is presented; but only tyrants and fools frame history as a burlesque.

        • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @01:53AM (#33768700)

          I disagree, I think that a "game" is an extremely effective way of conveying the true horror of history. You can show people movies, you can have them to read books and sit while a teacher lectures, and they can find some way of going into dummy mode for it all.

          A videogame as media for this kind of message does not need to be fun to be effective. Actually if anything it would be extremely effective to have people play a game where they are basically horrified at their own actions and disgusted by continuing to "win". What better way to get the horror of this across than to make the player as uncomfortable with their actions as possible?

          • I think that a "game" is an extremely effective way of conveying the true horror of history.

            If it was, it wouldn't be a game. One of the defining attributes of a game is that it has clearly defined, limited, reachable goals. It is at best a simplification of the real world, more commonly it's just a way to have fun incorporating real-world themes.

            There's really no more reason why a kid should be more horrified at playing this game than playing Dungeon Keeper - unless he knows exactly how historically accura

        • >>>Sometimes the mode of learning conveys a stronger message than the content of the lesson.

          Bullshit. At the end of the game the murderous guard gets hung (or life imprisonment). How is this not teaching a lesson about the consequences of shooting innocent people trying to escape to freedom? Also I don't think the game is intended to entertain, but to let people put themselves in that time period, like the holodeck did in Star Trek. Its the old "walk in another man's shoes" method of learning.

          O

          • by dave420 (699308)
            If you don't know the answer, you should read more books on the subject.
      • TFA finally gets around to pointing out that players who choose to shoot and kill those who attempt escape face the consequences for their actions by having their character stand trial later for the crime. They also give the choice of killing or not killing.

        The East German at the Wall was chosen for his absolute loyalty and obedience to the State.

        Not to mention that he was in immeadiate danger of being shot out-of-hand as a traitor if he let someone make it through.

        I can't imagine that fear of trial by the

        • by ewe2 (47163) <ewetooNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday October 02, 2010 @12:47AM (#33768466) Homepage Journal

          Then try googling east german border guard trial [google.com] and learn something instead of lazy comments like that. Surprise surprise there have been prosecutions. Are we learning history yet?

          • by galoise (977950) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @01:23AM (#33768602)
            Not only have there been prosecutions, but these cases are HUGE in modern criminal law academia, as they touched on fundamental questions of criminal responsibility and legality. They were fundamental in setting the bases of the contemporary discussion about human rights and the criminal persecution of state sponsored acts.

            In very simple terms, the problem in terms of criminal theory is that these people committed acts that were not typified as crimes under the legal systems that was in force when they were committed, so their prosecution _and conviction_ had a tremendous impact in the modern understanding of the legality principle, which is a fundamental concept in any criminal law system, and in criminal law theory.
          • by Cylix (55374) * on Saturday October 02, 2010 @01:44AM (#33768680) Homepage Journal

            I'm not learning history until I find a copy of this game.

            Though I'm not sure how much it's going to reflect history when I set the escapee to god mode. Unless of course anyone has heard stories of an invulnerable air walking no clipping escape from east germany destroying guards left and right. I'm sure it probably happened sometime even if no one reported it.

          • by westlake (615356)

            Then try googling east german border guard trial and learn something instead of lazy comments like that. Surprise surprise there have been prosecutions. Are we learning history yet?

            The game punishes the border guard retroactively.

            That doesn't honestly reflect why he was chosen for a station on the wall or the choices he was likely to make at the time.

            Projecting your fate and that of East Germany 40 years into the future scarcely seems probable.

            There were prosecutions.

            But the outcome of these trials seem b

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Though to be fair - don't be carried away, the consequences are really nil, zilch, nada. The actions...could still be presented to the player in a really "fun" way (as far as FPP shooters go). The whole experience would then be painful basically only if one already has such outlook.

        If that's the case, the whole deal with standing trial starts to look just like an excuse...

        And there are certainly ways to convey all the dillemas faced by people back then in a much more tactful way (while still "entertaining")

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KDR_11k (778916)

        Since A. it does not force you to kill the escapees and B. gives you a bad ending for doing so I don't think the courts would decide that it glorifies violence. Of course the tabloids can claim what they want, as can the politicians but only a court decision can result in an actual ban or punishment.

      • by loufoque (1400831)

        This one is pretty clear - you can be in the role of attempting to escape, or see what it was like for the guards. TFA finally gets around to pointing out that players who choose to shoot and kill those who attempt escape face the consequences for their actions by having their character stand trial later for the crime. They also give the choice of killing or not killing.

        I'm sorry, what crime are you talking about? The border guards did nothing illegal as far as the GDR law is concerned, since they were mili

        • I'm sorry, what crime are you talking about? The border guards did nothing illegal as far as the GDR law is concerned, since they were military personnel whose service consisted of preventing people to escape by any means necessary.

          Putting them on a FRG trial many years afterwards is simply pure nonsense to satisfy crazy mobs. FRG law didn't apply in that region back then.

          So, you have no problems with the gassing of Jews in the camps, either?

          • by loufoque (1400831)

            Putting people from another state under trial using a juridical system outside of its jurisdiction does not make sense; it's a sham to justify oppression or murder, and people that feel they were oppressed need to oppress their oppressors to feel good again.

            Whether the people did dubious things from a morality point of view is irrelevant. Morality is relative, and has as much its place in justice as religion does.
            But war is quite nonsense anyway. Brainwashing of the winner has been fairly efficient, and peo

            • by Cylix (55374) *

              You absolutely convinced me that we should always pursue crimes of war after the fact to ensure there are repercussions for everything you mentioned.

              Good Jorb!

    • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday October 01, 2010 @10:49PM (#33767996) Homepage Journal

      SPOILER

      The krauts lose, twice.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by KDR_11k (778916)

        The game pits Germans vs Germans fleeing from Germany to Germany, really a useful spoiler...

      • The game actually is about Germany losing a third time, but this one doesn't technically count because the other side was also Germany.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr. Freeman (933986)
      "By choosing to play the border guard and kill the escapee, the player would win an in-game medal from the government of East Germany. But then the guard would time-travel forward to the year 2000, where he would have to stand trial."

      Explain to me what part of this doesn't have tact. A lot of people will probably object to killing civilians, but the killing of innocent civilians IS WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED IN THE TIME AND PLACE IN WHICH THIS GAME IS SET. There isn't any way around this. Either you want to
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I really don't think Hitler or his army were ever part of running DDR.
        This was done by one of the parties that defeated Hitler, after WW2 was won and Hitler was dead.

        Perhaps if you play this game, maybe your knowledge of history will increase ?

      • Makes me wonder if there's room for an Auschwitz Guard role playing game.

        Death Camp Tycoon?

        I am honestly wondering if it might actually be possible to create a compelling (and of course controversial) work of art around that concept.

        I actually think it might be possible. Some of the best art totally fucks with people's heads. Inspiring outrage can be a valid artistic goal.

    • No. History must be taught without "tact" or other forms of distortion. Tact becomes "political correctness". Political correctness becomes bias. Bias begets little changes in the way history is reported. Little changes give wrong impressions. Wrong impressions create bigger biases. And so on.

      History needs to be taught as factually as possible. NO "tact", no "political correctness", no "Democrats or Republicans". Just facts. Those are the only things that will help us through problems of the future. Tact
  • by assemblerex (1275164) on Friday October 01, 2010 @10:37PM (#33767926)
    It wasn't handjobs and kittens you know. People died. People need to remember, even if it mean angering them.
  • Too bad the hordes of PC types out there can't accept this. Kids will only learn from a game if its enjoyable.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      The same people who protest against this likely played cowboys and indians as kids and Castle Wolfenstein in their youth. Oh, the irony.

  • 1: I know, let's teach young Germans about their history. What could possibly go wrong?

    2: Nothing I suppose, if we do it seriously and have a thought provoking discussion.

    1: How about a 1st person shooter game?

    2: Uhhh--

    1: Glad you approve!

  • Anybody knows where I can get this game? Seems fun :)

    People get pissed about the smallest things - which is funny.

  • History (Score:4, Interesting)

    by santax (1541065) on Friday October 01, 2010 @10:54PM (#33768020)
    Give this fellow a medal. I am furious when I hear USA-kids tell me (Euro-fag) that without them I would speak German. When you ask these same kids how they feel about the Jap-camps the USA had in those days they look at you as if they see water burn. They haven't been thought that part of history. Same here in the Netherlands. We are being thought about Anne Frank. The famous Jewish girl. We aren't being told about that the Dutch had one of the highest degrees of telling on people who where hiding those Anne's... And there are many, many more examples of this. So give this guy a medal for putting history as it should be... the way it was.
    • by rolfwind (528248)

      I like George Carlin's confusion feeling pride based on nationality and not what you, as an individual, did. The less you did as an individual, the more you have to delve finding security and reassurance in what you are. If WW2 taught anything, imo, it was individualism over collectivism in terms of judging others.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iw0MripVxss [youtube.com]

    • by Haedrian (1676506)

      More likely that you'd be speaking Russian actually.

      The interesting line which stopped at Germany was because the allies and the soviets reached there at pretty much the same time. If the Allies didn't have enough troops then it'd be likely that the line would have been pushed back even further.

      That said, the importance of the US during the war is greatly essagerated by the media. During the cold war movies which DIDN'T portray the US as 'saving the world' were deemed possibly-communist and banned or worse.

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        You do realize that the term "allies" includes the soviets too, right?

        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          You do realize that words are just sounds, or squiggles on a page or screen, right? The instant that it was obvious that the Krauts were whipped, the Russkis changed from enemies-of-our-enemies to just plain old enemies. The Cold War kicked off before WWII even ended.
          • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

            You do realize that words are just sounds, or squiggles on a page or screen, right?

            Wrong. Words represent ideas, that's why we find them so useful. When you don't know what words mean and use them incorrectly you are revealing your own ignorance.

        • by Haedrian (1676506)

          Lets leave the syntax aside for a moment shall we?

          Everyone understood what I meant. What do you want me to call them instead of enumerating all of them?

          Alright fine

          "The countries from which the troops attacking the Axis from the West of Europe Originated".

          There.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I am furious when I hear USA-kids tell me (Euro-fag) that without them I would speak German. When you ask these same kids how they feel about the Jap-camps the USA had in those days they look at you as if they see water burn

      Yeah well, I'm of the opinion that without the USA a lot of people would be speaking German, but the world traded one kind of evil for another when the USA became so very powerful as a result of waiting to enter the conflict. What box do you put me in?

      So give this guy a medal for putting history as it should be... the way it was.

      Amen. Your character gets to be tried for war crimes. It's not like they send you a coupon for a free blowjob if you successfully defend the virtual wall.

    • Re:History (Score:4, Insightful)

      by baKanale (830108) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @10:48AM (#33770426)
      Actually, I was taught about the Japanese internment camps in high school. On a side note, I think I remember the teacher noting that it wouldn't have been as bad if the Germans and Italians were put in camps too, since it "wouldn't have been racist" or something like that. Years later I learned that they were put in camps, albeit in much smaller numbers. Interestingly enough, a number of German internment camps were kept open until 1948. This was because the camps mixed members of the German-American Bund (a pro-Nazi German-American culture organization) with non-Bund Germans, prompting fears that the camps were becoming Bund recruitment and training grounds. And so the camps were kept open out of fear of releasing a bunch of Nazis into the streets. Meanwhile, the Italians were let out in 1943, after the Italian surrender, and most of the Japanese were let out in early 1945, before the war was even over (with the exception of at least one camp with detainees from Peru that was open until some time in 1946).
  • If this game is about people crossing the Berlin Wall, wouldn't 150 km (or whatever the exact length was) be more appropriate? Technically west Berlin wasn't even part of the FRG-- it was a foreign occupation zone deep within the borders of the GDR.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ..can you choose to not escape? Maybe wander around the empty town, chatting with the air and living out your life in peace?

  • The last big flap like this was over KZ Manager [wikipedia.org], which is a resource management game for managing an extermination camp.

  • Der einlige vay to vin ist nich zu playen!

  • Guess I must have missed that, even though I am an (oft mentioned) resident of the Federal Republic. Hang on, when I am in Hugendubel (a big bookstore) later on this morning I will read Der Speigel (a magazine invented by the British armed forces post war) and feel myself filled to overflowing with outrage and indignation at what these dashed computer boffins are up to now.

    The Germans love FUD

    Der Speigel knows this.

    The idea is to sell magazines.

    Of course if you lived here you would know that what is re
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by t2t10 (1909766)

      You must be pretty out of touch with German culture and news if you can't even spell "Spiegel" correctly.

  • I bet it wasn't as big of a controversy as JFK Reloaded [wikipedia.org]. You could play the sniper and replay various scenarios. With bullet time. Pieces of skull flying thru the air. The game modeled bullet trajectory thru objects including body guards. Needless to say the powers that be saw that this game never became mainstream. At the time it even vanished from pirate sites. Time has dulled that I guess, but if mainstream press got hold of the fact it is resurrected... Short review with Underdogs download link: h [cool.com.au]
    • Thanks for the link. I hope I can get it working on Linux, WINE or DOSbox should do it.
    • I scrolled down to the comments on there and nearly guffawed... those are among the most ridiculous comments I've seen on an internet article. Some really stupid people in Australia I guess ;)

      Still, thanks for the link - I remember that game. I tried to play a demo version of it (or something) back before it was released, but remember not being able to get it to go past the menus - and then I never heard anything about it again (and forgot about it) until now.

  • by w4rl5ck (531459) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @04:30AM (#33769160) Homepage

    While the project is based upon a gaming engine, and is "set up" as a classical game, the whole intention of the project differs totally from what is widely found as the "definition of gaming". (which is: having fun by pushing buttons to move dumb objects on a screen)

    The basic concept here is to use a computer game as a media or communication platform, to use it educationally - and to use it to make people remember the BAD things that happened in history.

    And you know, it works. People here in germany did not discuss the Mauer shootings for several years on such a broad base for years, and now it's all over public media again - which is basically even MORE than the author of the work could have hoped to gain with it, but it was exactly what was on his mind - maybe on a smaller scale.

    In general, it's time that public opinion recognizes games as more than "a funnny thing to relax". It's an art form, it's about communication, socializing, and live in general. The understanding of a "game concept" finally has to change, but I think this will come with the next generations, who understand a "computer game" not only as an evolved version of "Pong".

  • Is Ok. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tei (520358)

    Art exist to create controverse. This is the good art.
    The bad art just enforce the status quo (like religious art), this is the bad art.

  • Instead of... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bagsta (1562275)
    ... accusing the game's creator, it's better to accuse the leaders and the people who allowed these things to happen back then. If they don't want similar games to exist, then they should not have allowed these actions to happen in the first place. I think the same applies to this [slashdot.org].

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