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German Foundation For Digital Games Culture at the Computerspielemuseum
by Stephen Jacobs on 06/11/14 06:56:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Managing Director Peter Tscherne and Project Manager Benjaminn Rostalski of the Stiftung Digitale Spielekultur (or Foundation for Digital Games Culture) kicked off our visit to the first computer game museum on the planet, otherwise known as the Computerspielemuseum.

The two year-old Foundation is a joint initiative of the German federal government’s commissioner for culture and the media with the two associations of the computer games industry, the German Trade Association of Interactive Entertainment Software (BIU) and the German Games Industry Association (G.A.M.E.)  It's largest initiative is the German Computer GameAwards  or the “Deutscher Computerspielpreis” which the foundation took over when they were formed. However they do much more.  According to Peter they want to...

  1. Advance both acceptance and relevance of games in society
  2.  Initiate, support and encourage projects in highlighting different aspects of Gaming culture.
  3. Be a dedicated and enthusiastic yet critical promoter of gaming culture.

Both Peter and Benjaminn had just been to the 20th anniversary party of the USK, the German game ratings bureau much like our own ESRB.  Unlike the ESRB, and like the foundation, the USK is a partnership between industry and government in Germany.

Benjaminn knows the USK well.  Its game reviewers are students and he worked there while pursuing his studies. Benjamin tested GTA4 for 107 hours, almost his whole Christmas of 2000.

They both pointed to things that have been raising the profile of games in German society in addition to the annual prizes including

WASD magazine, Zeit Online (they compared it to the NYTIMES) games coverage, art on and about games like O.R.pheus,

The foundation itself has done a variety of innovative things to tie video games closer to mainstream politics and culture in Germany.  They have members of Parliment who are active in the Foundation's events and act as spokes people for games.  They've even held two LAN parties in Parliment. Since the Deutscher Computerspielpreis is a joint public/private venture its also another opportunity to educate the politicians on games. It predates the Foundation as this was its sixth year.  It was created in response to a media firestorm ignited by school shootings in 2003, 2007  and 2008 that were (surprise) blamed on video games.

They participate in Gamefest at the Computerspiellemuseum, with a competition called "Long Night of the retold games.” In this "spoken word/storytelling/poetry-slam" style event performers tell the audience about their favorite game or level. The audience votes on the best ones and the winners go to an annual, extremely high-profile literature festival with Nobel Laureate writers.  Also at this festival they had gamers introduce famous writers to video games and had the authors on a panel presenting their literary critiques of the games.

They are also looking to build the "largest video game archive in the world."  The plan is to combine, in some way, the USK's archive with the 20000 Computerspielemuseum's and that of the Digital Games Research Archive in Potsdam.

Other things the foundation does includes...

  • Taking a booth at an annual youth fair to promote careers in the industry
  • Attending conferences and running  sessions at gamescom
  • Creating a News Games hackathon in cologne.
  • Running Gamescamp 2012,  Bar Camp style event on games with media educators for youth ages 14-21

After the presentation the students got to ask a couple of questions.  One, on the challenges of digital preservation, led to Peter, Benjaminn, Andreas, Jorg and myself all chiming in on various efforts and methods and we all learned from each other.

Another question was on the Foundation's take on Diversity in the industry.  Peter said that the Foundation does not specifically address diversity as a goal but does talk about it as a component of the overall industry/player picture.  Benjaminn said that he felt that the trolling/Anti Women culture of gamers seems to be much larger in in the US than in Europe.

Afterwards I pointed Peter to the ICHEG's web site and to Carnegie Mellon's ETC Press, and especially the "Well Played" books as a touchstone for their literary efforts.

Then Andreas led us through the Computerspielemuseum, which began as a semi-formal collection in 1997 and is up to over 50,000video games and related ephemera in their collection.  The museum is broken down into three main sections; Roots/Homo ludens which is about games first and technology second, Milestones/history which covers the timelines of computing in general and the games industry in specific and a final section that breaks games down in to their artistic and cultural aspects.  There's also a space foe rotating/temporary exhibits.

Andreas pointed out that exhibitions are a medium on their own. He said "Our subject is primarily on the screen, it much less a physical one. Much of it can be downloaded so we need to attract our visitors with unique experiences."

And they do a great job of it with a small arcade cabinet section (Germany didn't really have much of an arcade culture, like the US did)  and showing a lot of indie games, art games and installations that are very cool, including everyone's favorite, the Pain Station :-)

I'd like to see The Strong National Museum of Play and ICHEG do more in these latter categories of the industry as well.

 

 


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Comments


Jennis Kartens
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G.A.M.E. and BIU do nothing of relevance.

True controversial topics such as censorship of games, pretty much the only thing that needs attention and change, remain untouched. The awards are a farce, since they're build around artificial "culture" and "education" center points and are biased towards kids friendly games. Sadly the Stifung Digitale Spielekultur is not living up to their name either. The landscape hasn't shifted.

Well okay I think they have had their hands in the descision process to make the USK box stickers so huge and annoying, that they ruin every retail product bought here. I stopped buying games here at all, no matter the age rating.

The Museum is great though. Not very large, but quite nice.

Stephen Jacobs
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Jennis,

If anything or anyone was able to shift the landscape in terms of how videogames are perceived in Germany, or the US, in two years it'd be nothing short of miraculous :-) Acceptance, or at least non-hysteria, over any pop-culture medium is usually generational. They're usually spawned by a publicly perceived trend of inciting violent acts which then cause an evaluative board to appear and created the rating systems. The ratings systems around film viewership and comic books generally took forty years (at least in the US) or so to loose their teeth (US film ratings) or disappear entirely (the comics code). So in the US ESRB formed in 1994, which means we're about halfway through the cycle :-)

What I like about the Stifung Digitale Spielekultur is that some of the things I listed that they do are pretty creative and I'd like to see us do here in the US as well. I also like the fact that Germany has Gamer members of Parliament (see my next posts) that are also interested in moving things forward. Here in the US the only legislator who plays games that we've got is Frank Underwood ;-)

If you ever travel to the US, plan a side trip to The Strong National Museum of Play.

Daniel Boy
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The small stuff is really great, the museum is really nice. But the Big Award is a farce, Stephen. Are you aware of that and did you just leave it out of the blog for brevity reasons?

Stephen Jacobs
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What's interesting to me, despite what discussions there may or not be about the operations of the prize, is that industry and government partnered on an annual, national event created to do something other than label video games as the tool of the devil and all their players psychopaths :-)

Jennis Kartens
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No one cares though and there are no fruits. That's an irrelevant mingle event for business poeple and politicians, not in favor for the actual consumer and without any true meaning to it. The current goverment is highly conservative and the ministers in place are as disconencted from this topic as one can be.

VGs are labeled as it fits, both politically as well as in the media. There is no real debate going on, it is all a farce. Sure, especially within the Stiftung there are intelligent people and their intentions may be good, but they all lack of proper power and energy to get things done.


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