The question of whether a computer game is (or at least can be) a work of art is still divided. Last week, the entertainment software Self-Regulation presented a revised version of its guiding criteria for the age rating of games, such as Minecraft (played at the best Minecraft servers), and took a clearer position in the new version of the preamble than before.
In the first version of the guiding criteria (which, by the way, are not to be confused with the strongly procedural “principles”, but concretize and supplement them), it was still relatively dry that computer games “today […] have become part of our everyday culture”. Now the corresponding passage in the new version has become much more extensive:
Computer games are a natural part of our everyday culture and also attract attention from an artistic point of view. Technically feasible and aesthetic expression can combine in such a way that games acquire features of an art form in contemporary entertainment. Through the opportunity of interactivity, developers and players can express themselves through the medium, critically deal with society and its processes and reflect on reality, development and change.
This assessment was unanimously made by the advisory board of the USK. This has something of a broad consensus, as this committee includes not only representatives of the games industry and the state youth authorities, but also representatives of the churches, independent youth welfare agencies, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, and, last but not least, the chairwoman of the Federal Inspection Agency for Media Harmful to Young People.
However, this also exhausts the changes to the guideline criteria first published in 2011. In purely substantive terms, the self-regulatory body believes that the standards for the protection of minors have not changed in the past two to three years. In a press release, the USK expressly points out that the new attitude to the art form of computer games has “no direct influence on the level of age ratings”. Our original explanations of the guiding criteria should therefore continue to apply.
However, the question of the art character in youth protection law is not completely irrelevant. Thus, with every indexing, it must be checked whether the protection of artistic freedom does not outweigh the interests of the protection of minors with regard to the species examined game. Also with regard to the use of unconstitutional symbols, one can hardly avoid the impression that “recognized” forms of artistic expression are granted more than the games. In any case, (legal) practice has so far dealt with computer games much more restrictively than, for example, with feature films, which has also been reflected in the case of law in the past. In these areas, the positioning of the USK could certainly set accents.