Skip to main content

German Ministry of Foreign Affairs + Computer Games = ?

Following on yesterday's pro-game rant by Richard Bartle, here is a blog post by Jens Schroeder showing that the political establishment in Germany is not much more enlightened than in the U.K. I was quite surprised by the attitude displayed by Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier:

Stressing that games can be culture — this is Germany after all and without having been elevated into the lofty realms of culture no new technology is acceptable — he uttered the vision of a co-existence of classical German high culture (as in the explicitly mentioned Goethe) and the new medium of digital games — not without having mentioned that the "non-academically inclined" milieus spend a proportionately higher part of their day in front of the computer. Here we go again… (It did not become clear if this includes internet use as well; to be fair he also mentioned that there's not necessarily a causal relationship between underachievement and time spend with computers — which is pretty much a no-brainer as it of course mainly depends on the use one puts it to. Also: When asked what amount of time he considers appropriate to spend time with computers his answer was "30 minutes to an hour" causing pretty much everyone to break out in laughter…)

Emphasis mine.

[Malte Behrmann, lobbyist and chairperson of the German and European game developers associations] explained to me that in the European Union one just can't randomly subsidize a branch of industry but that certain criteria have to be fulfilled to qualify for grants — one being the "cultural exception", the reason why he was busy trying to frame games as culture to achieve said subsidies. It can be seen that in France this approach was obviously successful.

I find it strange to imagine a point of view where computer games are not culture. In fact, I find it strange to imagine a point of view where computer games are not art, or culture, or a storytelling medium. I mean... isn't it obvious? Discussing this was fun in the 90s. The early 90s.

But it also helped to widen the acceptance of digital games in Germany as it was used to counter the maddening "Killerspiel" discourse. As I told Malte this was probably the best action plan they could come up with. The thing is: German politicians for the most part are all members of what could be called a high-level milieu (successors of the classical educated bourgeoisie) whose main form of distinction is "anti-barbarian", one of the main reasons why digital games with violent content matter are vigorously rejected. The opposite of "barbarian" is of course culture, a concept that perfectly works for these people's self-legitimation resulting in the heightened acceptance of the new medium.

The political class... brr.