Germany doesn’t run from its dark history—as a country, it’s actively worked to preserve evidence of the atrocities committed during World War II and has reconfigured its notion of Germanhood in its wake. Artworks that depict Nazis and Nazism are presented with an almost sacrosanct reverence, so that future generations can learn from the actions of the past. Video games are caught in a weird nexus, though, as German censors don’t classify them as art, and so require their creators to jump through weird loopholes.
In games, images of violence, particularly the iconography of the Third Reich, are totally verboten. Publishers are willing to sometimes drastically alter their games because the German market is the biggest in Europe, leading to some truly bizarre tweaks, as an insightful video from Dorkly points out in a detail-rich video.
The film Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, for example, was able to portray swastikas clearly, but in the game adaptation, they’re blocked with little black squares. In Wolfenstein: The New Order, they’re turned into little emblems for the game; South Park just has huge black boxes over all Nazis. The censors dislike games that incentivize killing, so sometimes whole score-attack game modes (like Resident Evil 5) are axed. Since games aren’t art, they shouldn’t contain human death, so often all people are inexplicably turned into robots, as in these bizarre before-and-after images from Command & Conquer: Generals.
They don’t even want things that look like the old SS lightning-bolt logo, which led to an entire skating brand being removed from Skate 2 and KISS’s albums being released with this alternate logo.
Would Germany have been fine just missing out on KISS’s Alive 35 album? Perhaps. But censorship doesn’t take risks.