Germany lifts total ban on Nazi symbols in video games

A pair of screenshots from Wolfenstein II: The new Colossus. On the left, a German solider is shown wearing his swastika armband. On the right, in the German release, the swastika has been replaced with a triangular icon

Germany bans symbols belonging to unconstitutional groups, which has caused problems in games where the Nazis are a frequent adversary.

In games like the Wolfenstein series, German editions would change Hitler’s name, remove his moustache, and replace swastikas with another shape.

The change means Nazi symbols used in an artistic way will be allowed.

Until now, using banned symbols would prevent a video game from being considered for a compulsory age rating – essentially banning it from being sold in stores.

The ban on extremist symbols is still in place, but rating body USK said the rules will now be applied to video games in the same way they are used for films. On a case-by-case basis, a game could get past the rating procedure if an artistic or dramatic use is justified.

It also said a game which is clearly opposed to the banned group’s ideals could qualify – which is the case for many games that require large numbers of Nazi soldiers to be killed by the player.

Shaving Hitler

The ban on Nazi symbols in games dates back to the 1990s.

One recent controversy involved blockbuster game Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, set in an alternate history in which Nazi Germany won World War Two – and in which Hitler is still alive.

The German version of the game replaced every swastika with the game’s logo or other inoffensive symbols. In most countries, when Hitler’s character enters a scene, he is welcomed as the Führer – but in Germany, he is referred to as a “chancellor” – and his recognisable moustache has mysteriously disappeared.

The video showcasing his appearance contains graphic violence and may not be suitable for all viewers.