VAT = Violent Arcade-game Tax?

Threat to public good

Germany has a somewhat unenviable reputation as the most trigger-happy nation in Europe when it comes to censorship of violent games, with many having to be edited for release in the country or getting banned altogether.

Unreal Tournament, for example, had all of its human characters replaced by robots who "bleed" oil, while many other games are "listed", meaning that they can't be advertised normally and must be kept under the counter by stores wanting to sell them.

So it's perhaps no surprise that the German town of Goettingen has taken the natural next step by imposing a 700% higher tax rate on violent shoot 'em up arcade games than it charges for non-violent ones, in an apparent effort to discourage local arcade owners from using the games.

And last week a court in the city of Karlsruhe ruled that the Goettingen council was within its rights, saying that violent games were a "threat to the public good", according to a Reuters report. The court added that "a higher entertainment tax would help control addiction and reduce the number of warlike games, [which] would do much to stem the increasing brutalization of society".

Whether this precedent will be followed in other cities or extended to cover computer and console games as well as arcade titles remains to be seen, but it's certainly another blow for freedom of speech in Germany. While we support the use of age ratings on violent and explicit games, we certainly don't appreciate censorship, whether by the outright banning of certain titles or by simply taxing them to death. ®

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