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Satirical game used to push back against German ban on Nazi symbols

While the ban against Nazi imagery in games and other media remain in place, 'the decision of the Attorney General’s Office can be seen as an important signal' that it can be challenged.

German authorities have reportedly declined to seek legal action against the makers of Bundesfighter II Turbo, a piece of political satire wrapped up in a Street Fighter-esque browser game released last year by the Funk media group to coincide with the country's 2017 elections.

What makes this decision so interesting is why it happened in the first place: one of the Bundesfighter II Turbo characters (representing German politician Alexander Gauland) has a special move (pictured) that involves splaying his arms and legs out in a pose mirroring a Nazi swastika.

German law bans the use of Nazi imagery in video games, and so a member of the German game industry consumer rights group VDVC (Verband für Deutschlands Video- und Computerspieler) seems to have intentionally filed a complaint against Bundesfighter II Turbo in order to provoke a legal decision about whether games can, like other forms of art in Germany, be exempt from the Nazi imagery ban if they're using it in an educational or satirical context.

This is all summed up in a post published by the VDVC last week which claims legal authorities in the region where Funk is based have declined to investigate the case, acknowledging that Bundesfighter II Turbo serves "both the arts and civic enlightenment" and is therefore exempt from the ban.

But that wasn't enough for the VDVC, which seems to have then appealed the local authorities' decision to a higher authority (the overseeing Attorney General's office) on the argument that the legal reasoning for why Bundesfighter II Turbo is exempt from the ban is not in keeping with how games are currently treated under German law. The Attorney General's office decided to uphold the original decision, and according to the VDVC called the current state of German law regarding Nazi imagery in games "outdated". 

The VDVC claims this is the first time a game has not been taken to task (legally speaking) for containing Nazi imagery, and while the ban against such "anti-constitutional" imagery in games and other media remain in place, "the decision of the Attorney General’s Office can be seen as an important signal" that it can be challenged.

Despite the "outdated" remark, the ban remains a very significant issue for contemporary game makers, among them the folks behind Attentat 1942, a historical game about the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia that recently won an award at A MAZE Berlin despite being banned from sale in Berlin (and the rest of Germany).

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