On the morning of March 11, a tragedy unfolded in Winnenden in Baden-Württemberg when a 17-year-old young man from the Albertville secondary school armed with a pistol took deliberate aim at students, teachers and passers-by. Fifteen people were murdered before the young man finally killed himself.
The German media's current reporting on the killings is increasingly shifting its focus to the issue of computer and video games. Various publications say that computer games were found in the home of the young man, which must have prompted him to go on the shooting spree. Yet there is nothing remarkable in the fact that the he was in possession of computer games as they have long since become a standard part of youth culture.
The tragic events in Winnenden rather point to a complex set of background motives to the gunman's actions. It is highly probable that his psychological condition and social environment played an important role here. In the light of the information we now have, there can be no direct connection made between the consumption of violent media and the events in Winnenden.
In the view of the Federal Association of Interactive Entertainment Software (BIU), the present case does not point to a failure of the law relating to youth protection. Out of consideration for the victims of the tragedy of Winnenden, the BIU cautions against shifting the debate away from the real motives behind the crime to a subjective discussion of a ban on so-called “killer games.”
Current legislation in the German Criminal Code already forbids the distribution of computer and video games that “glorify violence.” Governmental control of age group labelling, as called for by various German politicians in the past, has been legally in force ever since the revised version of the Youth Protection Act was passed in 2003.
In relation to computer and video games, Germany has the most closely meshed youth protection legislation of any country on earth. A general ban on games for adults would amount to censorship which cannot be justified given the complex nature of governmental enforcement.
The victims of the terrible tragedy in Winnenden deserve a measured, rational debate on the causes that led to it. The proposal currently put forward by the conservative Christian Democratic (CDU/CSU) parliamentary group calling for a stricter ban on computer and video games is thus completely inappropriate and unhelpful. Legislative regulations are sufficient as they now stand.
What is rather needed are measures to improve the enforcement of existing legislation to ensure that computer and video games are only sold or rented to children and young people in strict accordance with the age limits already in place. The BIU remains committed to robust youth protection policy measures and calls on politicians and government institutions to support it in its efforts to this end.
Olaf Wolters is the managing director of the Federal Association of Interactive Entertainment Software (BIU), which represents the providers and producers of such software in Germany.