Controversial shoot-’em-up scoops top prize

Controversial shoot-'em-up scoops top prize
Photo: DPA
A row blew up over a violent computer game on Friday after it took top honours at the German Computer Game Awards against the wishes of the government, which partly sponsors the €50,000 first prize.

The first-person shooter game Crysis 2 has been the subject of heated debate in parliament since its nomination in early March, for the prize – which is partly financed by the government.

“No matter how technically accomplished, so-called shoot-‘em-ups should not be rewarded,” said Wolfgang Börnsen, cultural spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party.

But on Thursday evening an independent jury in Berlin gave the €50,000 top prize to developers of the violent game. Delivering its verdict, the jury said the game by Frankfurt developers Crytek had “convinced and delighted public and experts alike” and praised its “technological, qualitative and economic” credentials.

That endorsement may not appease Börnsen, who had openly lamented the jury’s focus on technical quality over cultural-pedagogical values, in contrast with the 2007 parliamentary resolution that founded the prize.

The award is sponsored by Minister of State for Culture Bernd Neumann, as well as industry associations BIU and GAME.

In a statement on behalf of the coalition, drafted before the winner was announced, Börnsen said the panel’s choice contravened Article 1 of the German Constitution – “Human dignity shall be inviolable” – and made it harder for parents to take a stand against violent games. He even raised the possibility of replacing the jury.

EA Games, which distributes the controversial title, rejected Börnsen’s criticisms. Spokesman Martin Lorber said a game’s entertainment value was just as valid a criterion for prize-givers as its educational worth.

The coalition’s standpoint has also come under attack from within parliament. Sebastian Blumenthal of the Free Democratic Party, chairman of the subcommittee on new media, criticized Börnsen’s “undiscriminating Killerspiel-rhetoric” for using the pejorative German term for particularly violent video games.

Sigmund Ehrmann, spokesman for the left-leaning Social Democratic Party’s culture and media taskforce, agreed that the conservatives’ use of that term cast doubt on their objectivity. He pointed out that the jury, which included representatives of the coalition, had reached its decision by a two-thirds majority. “That should not be discredited,” Ehrmann said.

The coalition itself is also far from united on the matter. The technological assembly Cnetz, recently founded by coalition politicians, reminded their colleague that the Quentin Tarantino film ‘Inglourious Basterds’, which contained many violent scenes, was promoted with public money.

The controversy of Crysis 2’s victory came on the tenth anniversary of the Erfurt school massacre. Violent video games were heavily criticized in the aftermath of the tragedy following revelations that they were a favourite pastime of teenage gunman Robert Steinhäuser who killed 16 people at his former school before shooting himself.

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