Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle

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Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle
Founded1994; 26 years ago (1994)
Area served
ServicesVideo game ratings

Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (Entertainment Software Self-Regulation, abbreviated USK) is the organisation responsible for video game ratings in Germany.[1]


Approved without age restriction in accordance with Art. 14 German Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG).
Games without age restriction are games which are directly aimed at children and young persons as well as at an adult buyer group.
Approved for children aged 6 and above in accordance with Art. 14 German Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG).
These games mostly involve family-friendly games which may be more exciting and competitive (e.g. via faster game speeds and more complex tasks)
USK 12
Approved for children aged 12 and above in accordance with Art. 14 German Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG).
These games feature much more of a competitive edge. Game scenarios contain little violence, enabling players to distance themselves sufficiently from events.
USK 16
Approved for children aged 16 and above in accordance with Art. 14 German Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG).
Games approved for children aged 16 and above may include acts of violence.
USK 18
Not approved for anyone under 18 in accordance with Art. 14 German Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG).
These games almost always involve violent game concepts and frequently generate a dark and threatening atmosphere. This makes them suitable for adults only. These games often contain brutal, strong bloody violence and/or glorify war and/or human rights violations.
The USK's official logo, used until August 2010.

Original ratings[edit]

These are ratings used from 2003 until 2009–2010.

USK 0 (2003-2009).svg USK 6 (2003-2009).svg USK 12 (2003-2009).svg USK 16 (2003-2009).svg USK 18 (2003-2009).svg

According to the USK itself, the state uses the age-rating symbol to regulate whether a computer game may be publicly supplied to children and young persons. Retailers are obliged to comply with the restrictions indicated by the rating. For example, a game approved for children aged 12 and above may not be sold to a 10-year old. Outside of business relations (e.g. parents or adult friends giving the game to a child or youth) there is no such restriction.[1]

Advertisement of games rated USK 16 or below is not restricted only if the advertisement itself has no content that is harmful to minors. Games without a USK rating are treated like a USK 18 game.

Additionally the BPjM maintains a List of media harmful to young people (colloquially known as the “Index”). Titles that are on this list may only be sold on request to adults 18 or older, are not to be advertised in any media or put on display in retail stores. German retail stores, mail order and internet vendors tend to sell only games that do have a USK rating, due to the massive restrictions. These games are still sold from vendors outside Germany into the German market, however numbers are low.

Only games that are not rated harmful to young people by the BPjM may get a USK rating. Many non-German publishers and developers choose to release edited versions of their games to try to prevent an 18+ rating either fearing the same negative sales impact an AO rating would have in the US, or out of fear that an 18+ title might be indexed by the BPjM.

In 2006 Microsoft chose not to release Gears of War on the German market. Since the game was imported to the German market nonetheless (without any age limit), the BPjM became involved and put the game on the index list. The same applied to the second instalment. Afterwards the rating procedure was revised, and imported games without a USK rating are automatically considered 18+ regardless of content. The third game did get classified with a USK 18 rating.


Up through 2018, USK has banned games that contain imagery of certain groups, including Nazis, Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Islamic State, as required by Strafgesetzbuch (German code) section 86a, by effectively refusing to rate such games making them unavailable to purchase in retail channels. While Section 86a included a "social adequacy" clause that allowed such images to be applied to areas like education, science and art (including literature and films), video games were not considered to qualify within that, which the USK enforced. To publish such games in Germany, developers and publishers had to strip out and replace such images, such as replacing the Swastika used on uniforms in Wolfenstein: The New Order with a novel symbol.[2] On August 9, 2018, USK announced that the German government will relax this Section 86a restriction on video games, as long as the imagery included falls within the "social adequacy" allowance. USK will still evaluate how this imagery is used and reject games they believe fail to meet the social adequacy allowance.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b USK. Protecting Children and Young People. URL:http://www.usk.de/fileadmin/documents/USK_Broschuere_ENG.pdf. Accessed: 2015-08-14. (Archived by WebCite® at https://www.webcitation.org/6ampnB5Jn)
  2. ^ Philips, Tom (May 22, 2014). "Video: Wolfenstein: The New Order censored version comparison". Eurogamer. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  3. ^ Handrahan, Matthew (August 9, 2018). "Germany relaxes stance on Nazi symbols in video games". GamesIndustry.biz. Retrieved August 9, 2018.

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