Video game simulates East German border terror
A controversial new video game set for release on the 20th anniversary of German reunification this week lets players take on the roles of trigger-happy East German border guards or political fugitives running for their lives.
Set along the death strip between the East and West Germany in 1976 – one of deadliest years for those attempting escape from the communist east – the 3-D interactive game “1378 (km)” aims to get young Germans interested in their country’s history.
“Through the personal identification as a fugitive of the republic or a border guard, and the intensive experience of the border areas, the interest of the young generation in the conflict of recent German history will be awakened,” according to a statement by the university.
Creator Jens M. Stober, a student at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, born in 1986 just a few years before the Berlin Wall fell, presented the game to journalists on Tuesday.
Players, depending on whether their characters are guards or escapees, must choose whether to shoot, arrest, run, give up, kill, or be killed.
The consequences of these actions along the Iron Curtain include prison for attempted escapees and honours for soldiers. But border guards who shoot to kill more than three times are magically transported to the year 2000, where they face trial for their crimes.
The point system considers both political and social aspects of players’ actions – too many dead people at the border increases political pressure on East Germany, lowering the player’s score.
But the director of the Berlin Wall Memorial, Axel Klausmeier, called the game “tasteless,” and an insult to the families of those killed along the border while trying to escape.
He also said the game was “unsuitable” for teaching historical facts.
“The seriousness of what once went on at the border can’t be portrayed in this way,” he said.
“1378 (km),” named after the length of the border between East and West Germany that remained for 28 years, will be available for download free of charge beginning October 3, German Unity Day.