Cold War Video Game: A Hot Topic in Germany

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A computer game set in the Cold War, which allows people to play as East German border guards who shoot political fugitives, has caused controversy in Germany. The game, named 1378 after the length in kilometers of the border between East and West Germany, allows players to take on the role of both guards and East Germans fleeing the communist state. Guards are awarded medals if they shoot a high number of escapees. Complaints have caused the game’s release to be postponed from this Sunday, the 20th anniversary of German reunification, until a later date.

1378 was created by 23-year-old Jens Stober as part of his degree at the University of Design, Media and Arts in Karlsruhe. He claims the game is an educational tool, reported the BBC. “Becoming an East German escapee or border guard enables players to identify with these figures,” he said. “It’s a novel way of encouraging young people to take an interest in coming to terms with recent German history.”

However, East German Rainer Wagner is among those offended by the game. He was arrested while trying to cross the wall and spent two years in prison as a result. In his view the game is problematic because, unlike other games, it involves shooting at “unarmed civilians.” Around 136 people were killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall and analysts say at least as many again were killed on the rest of the national border.

Take a look at the trailer and decide for yourself. Is this tasteless, or is it a clever way of helping German’s understand their history?