So Bonnie Prince Harry went and wore a German Afrika Korps uniform, complete with ahistorical swastika armband, to a party. Whee. How relevant is THAT to this blog, anyway?

Well, this. Apparently Germany is proposing that, to prevent such acts of bad taste from occurring in the future, the European Union adopt Germany’s laws against Nazi paraphenalia.

“Oh, STFU Lum, I live in America, home of the free, and I can wear SS uniforms and goosestep in my basement any time that I want! Er, not that I do. Or anything.”

Well, something Americans who, to put it quaintly, don’t get out much may not be aware of is the radical editing that most games that even touch on the government Germany had from 1933 to 1945 undergo to be legal to sell in the German market. For example, in the German version of Hearts of Iron 2, Germany is ruled by “Hiller”, and the air force is run by a guy named “Gorink”. Admittedly, this wasn’t due to the deNazification laws – that would be why the German flag is the World War 1 version and Hitler and the other Nazis don’t get pictures. But in HOI2, Paradox wanted to have the game rated OK to sell to minors, which meant:

And yes, thats what the USK people told us to do. You can’t mention Hitler etc in a computergame in Germany.

Not much we can do when you guys want those laws.

Hm… Well, USK is as far as I know voluntary. You don’t have to have that certificate. However, if you do not have it, you can’t sell it to minors (or – I’m not quite sure – put it on display where minors can see it). Obviously, everybody wants the USK certificate for those reasons.

I don’t think there’s any law saying that you can’t use the word Hitler in a PC game. Swastikas etc are indeed outright forbidden. But the USK – an independent organization charged with the task of reviewing media output with most members doing it pro bono – will have its own views upon what’s suitable or not – for a given age group.

Now, I’m not one of the maniacs that demand lovingly crafted swastikas and event engines toting up the number of dead Jews per year in my conflict sims. But frankly, it makes me feel good to beat Nazis. They were bad guys. They were really, unabashed, honest to God, black and white, BAD GUYS. If you conquer the Nazis, that’s a good thing. And the Nazis weren’t led by Albrecht Hiller. And sometimes, with apologies to my German friends who are REALLY REALLY TIRED of being thought of as “those Nazi guys” fifty years later, political correctness can go way, way too far.

But if those guidelines shift from one country to all of Europe, it is quite possible that game companies simply will produce games off the shelf that match those guidelines, rather than going to the trouble of “localizing them out” for a major part of their market.

And if that happens? Well, you can blame a poorly behaved 20 year old drunken yob who through an accident of genetics is fairly well known. Funny how the world works.