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Berlin Wall Video Game '1378 (km)' Stirs Controversy in Germany

screenshot of '1378 (km)'
This Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of German reunification. Not coincidentally, it also marks the release of a new shoot 'em up game called '1378 (km),' set along the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. Although the game's creator insists that '1378 (km)' has a very real educational value, that hasn't done much to quell the controversy in Germany, where the memories of East-West violence are still very fresh.

Created by 23-year-old Jens Stober, '1378 (km)' (the length of the Berlin Wall) awards badges to players who shoot refugees trying to escape the East German Communist regime. Eventually, the game fast forwards to the year 2000, when the border guards must go on trial for their Cold War-era shootings. Alternatively, players can choose to play from the other side of the Wall, as escapees trying to avoid gunfire along their quest to the West.

Historically circumspect as '1378 (km)' may be, many Germans are outraged over Stober's creation, which they see as an affront to those who lost family members along the Berlin Wall. "Ultimately it's just an ego-shooter game, which is unacceptable given the historical context," says Dietrich Wolf, spokesman for the Federal Foundation for the Reconciliation of the Communist Dictatorship. Theodor Mettrup, of the Association for Victims of Communist Tyranny, tells Reuters that '1378 (km)' "makes a mockery of the victims," adding that "the shootings at the wall were no game."

Stober, meanwhile, insists that '1378 (km)' could help introduce a generation of younger gamers to their country's relatively recent history. "Becoming an East German escapee or border guard enables players to identify with these figures," Stober says. "It's a novel way of encouraging young people to take an interest in coming to terms with recent German history."

Clearly, Stober went to great lengths to make his game as objective as possible, as evidenced by the fact that gamers can choose to play as either an escapee or border guard. Ending '1378 (km)' with a modern-era court trial, moreover, adds an important, long-term perspective to the game, and suggests that Stober was well aware of the historical sensitivities his creation would arouse. Still, it's all but impossible for outsiders like us to fully understand how German history is processed within Germany. Fortunately, though, the free, unified Germany of today is tolerant enough to allow '1378 (km)' on the market -- a subtle reality that shouldn't be overlooked.

Tags: 1378km, berlin, BerlinWall, ColdWar, controversy, EastGermany, gaming, germany, history, politics, top, VideoGames, WestGermany