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Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body, abbreviated USK) is the organization responsible for computer game ratings in Germany.
Approved without age restriction in accordance with Art. 14 German Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG)., These games mostly involve family-friendly games which may be more exciting and competitive (e.g. via faster game speeds and more complex tasks), such as Racers, Simulations, Platformers and Role-playing games.
Approved for children aged 6 and above in accordance with Art. 14 German Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG)., These games mostly involve family-friendly games which may be more exciting and competitive (e.g. via faster game speeds and more complex tasks), such as Racers, Simulations, Jump 'n Runs and Role-playing games.
Approved for children aged 12 and above in accordance with Art. 14 German Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG)., These games feature much more of a competitive edge. Game scenarios are set within a historical, futuristic or mythical fairy-tale context, enabling players to distance themselves sufficiently from events. This categorisation includes Arcade games, Strategy games and Role-playing games as well as some Military Simulations.
Approved for children aged 16 and above in accordance with Art. 14 German Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG)., Games approved for children aged 16 and above may include acts of violence. This means that it is also natural for adults to form part of the buyer group. These games frequently feature armed combat, a framework story and military missions. The genres in this categorisation also include Action Adventures, Military Strategy games and Shooter.
Not approved for young persons aged under 18 in accordance with Art. 14 German Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG)., These games virtually always involve violent game concepts and frequently generate a dark and threatening atmosphere. This makes them suitable for adults only. The genres in this categorisation include First-person Shooters, Action Adventures and Open World games. These games contain brutal, moderately bloody violence and/or glorify war and/or human rights violations.
These are ratings used since 2003 until 2009-2010.
A USK 18 rating means that the vendor is liable to ensure that he doesn't sell the game to minors. Outside of business relations (e.g. parents or adult friends giving the game to the minor) there is no such restriction. Advertisement of games rated USK 16 or below is not restricted as long as the advertisement itself has no content that is harmful to minors. Games without a USK rating are automatically treated like a USK 18 game.
Additionally the BPjM maintains a List of media harmful to young people (colloquially known as the "Index"). Titles that are on this list may only be sold on request to adults over the age of 18, are not to be advertised in any media or put on display in retail stores. German retail stores, mail order and internet vendors tend to sell only games, that do have a USK rating, due to the massive restrictions. These games are still sold from vendors outside Germany into the German market, however numbers are low.
Only games that are not rated harmful to young people by the BPjM may get a USK rating. Many non-German publishers and developers create special German version of their games in an attempt to prevent an 18+ rating either fearing the same negative sales impact an AO rating would have in the US, or out of fear that an 18+ title might be indexed by the BPjM.
In 2006 Microsoft chose not to release Gears of War on the German market, because the USK refused to give the game a USK 16 rating (despite the existence of the 18+ rating, which the third game did get classified with). Since the game was imported to the German market nonetheless (without any age limit), the BPjM became involved and put the game on the index list. The same applied to the second installment. Afterwards the rating procedure was revised, and imported games without a USK rating are automatically considered 18+ regardless of content.
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