Germany lifts Doom sales ban after 17 years

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Doom screenshot, Activision
Image caption,
Doom's blocky graphics are now surpassed by those on modern mobiles

A German ban on selling Doom to older teenagers has been lifted after 17 years.

The classic video game was put on an index of controlled titles in 1994 as it was deemed likely to harm youth.

Like pornography, sales of the violent shoot 'em up were restricted to adult-only stores.

The rules have been relaxed because officials believe that Doom is now only of artistic and scientific interest and will not appeal to youngsters.

However, one version of the game remains on the index because it features Nazi symbols on some levels.

Sadistic violence

The restrictions on Doom and Doom II officially expired on 31 August following a meeting of the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (Bundesprufstelle) earlier in the month.

The Bundesprufstelle reportedly decided to reconsider the game's status following an appeal by Bethesda Softworks, the current owner of id Software, which created Doom.

Bethesda argued that the game's crude graphics had been surpassed by many modern titles and, as a result, the violence it depicted had far less of an impact.

The Bundesprufstelle said its original decision was not solely based on the graphic quality of the game, although it noted that most mobile phones now supported far more realistic images.

The panel explained that it was originally concerned because the story played out in Doom involved a relentless cycle of gunplay and "bloody sadistic" violence that was not balanced by other scenes.

In an email to BBC News, a spokesman for the Bundesprufstelle said the key question it asks is whether a game contains "drastic portrayals of violence directed against human or human-like beings".

They added: "If the game then does not contain any real alternative scenes which might on the whole 'neutralise' the violent parts, then the game is likely to be found to have a harmful effect on minors."

The Bundesprufstelle said it had relaxed the restrictions because Doom was now "mainly of historical interest" and was far less likely to be played by children. Not least, it added, because much more realistic and challenging games were more widely available.

Some members of the Bundesprufstelle panel wanted to keep the restrictions in place but were outvoted by those deeming it acceptable.

If Doom goes on sale in Germany it will still only be available to those aged 16 or over.

The adults-only rule was beginning to look like an anomaly because other versions of Doom games, such as one for the Game Boy Advance, had previously been approved in Germany.

Restrictions on Doom II - Hell on Earth have also been lifted.

However, the panel decided to maintain controls on the American version of Doom II because it incorporates two levels from Wolfenstein 3D which makes use of Nazi symbols including swastikas.

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