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Swastikas will no longer automatically be banned in German video games

For years, swastikas and Nazi imagery were being removed from German versions of video games, but that might be about to change.

Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET

A lot of video games feature Nazis. Almost always as antagonists.

There's World War 2 games like Call of Duty and Battlefield. There's also games like Wolfenstein in alternative futures dominated by Nazis.

When games like that make it to Germany, they usually have to be very careful of Nazi imagery. In Wolfenstein II they even removed Adolf Hitler's moustache.

But that could be about to change as the USK, Germany's national ratings agency, announced some changes in how games will be rated and adjusted in Germany. Now video games will be given the same treatment as movies: As works of art, they will be exempt from the ban on swastikas. "[S]ymbols of anti-constitutional organizations can be used in a title," explained USK in a statement, "as long as it serves the arts or science, the representation of events of the day or history."

The decision doesn't necessarily mean that all Nazi imagery in video games will be preserved, but it does lift what was previously a blanket ban on video game use of swastikas.

The German games industry welcomed the decision.

"Computer and video games have been recognised as a cultural medium for many years now, and this latest decision consistently cements that recognition in terms of the use of unconstitutional symbols as well," says Felix Falk, the managing director of BIU, the German Games Industry Association.

"This new decision is an important step for games in Germany."