WikiProjekt Computerspiel: Covering Computer Games in Germany
Screenshots from games are generally not allowed on the German Wikipedia, with the exception of screenshots freely licensed by the game's copyright holder like this image from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
In the past year, we've tried to expand our horizons by looking at how WikiProjects work in other languages of Wikipedia. Following in the footsteps of our previously interviewed Czech and French projects, we visited the German Wikipedia to explore WikiProjekt Computerspiel (WikiProject Computer Games). The project dates back to November 2004 and has become the back-end of the Computer Games Portal, which covers all video games regardless of platform. Editors writing about computer games at the German Wikipedia deal with unique cultural and legal challenges, ranging from a lack of fair use precedents to the limited availability of games deemed harmful for youths to strong standards for the inclusion of material on the German Wikipedia. In a break from our usual modus operandi, we interviewed an IP editor who was given the blessing of the project's coordinator, Kungfuman.
What motivated you to join WikiProject Computer Games?
- If you want to change more than just text passages and influence the structure of articles, rules, or criteria for gaming articles and Wikipedia itself, you have to go through the WikiProjects and find allies. Projects definitely help to get things clarified. Also, group decisions and consensus are more powerful and convincing than single user decisions. And sometimes you get a helpful hint or other information.
How does WikiProject Computer Games keep track of its articles? Does the project tag or assess articles as part of its quality assurance process?
- We have some bot support and use catscan for manual checks. We have a project Quality Assurance department, but we do not have a elaborated QA strategy. All entries are either handled by German Wikipedia's general QA process or are improved if someone finds an article that he thinks needs some urgent overhaul, normally if the article is so messed up that it becomes a candidate for deletion. But normally responsiveness to our QA process is low as well.
WikiProject Computer Games is part of the Computer Games Portal. How do the German Wikipedia's projects and portals differ from those on the English Wikipedia? Have you collaborated or shared any material with the English WikiProject Video Games or with similar projects for any other languages? How can communication between the different languages of Wikipedia be improved?
- It's said portals are for the readers and projects for the editors, but IMHO there is no obvious difference. Many projects without portals tend to design their project pages close to portals and vice versa. For collaborations, I can't remember any.
- I think the first problem for collaboration is language skill. Reading a foreign language is one thing, corresponding is a different beast. The second problem from my perspective are the strict criteria of the German Wikipedia regarding relevance, references, and proofs that do not translate to any other project. For example, for us it's nearly impossible to save an article from being deleted if the game hasn't already been released. The majority simply does not accept products that do not already exist and the argument for games is "they often get cancelled." Stubs are not accepted easily as well. Also, if we can not give proof from neutral sources for innovation, wide reception (critics, awards) or significant sales, the article often gets a deletion request. For games, the criteria seem even harder than for the rest. My personal opinion: Sometimes you get the impression German Wikipedians are representative for the more conservative part of the German population that still thinks games are childish and pulp fiction (compared to Goethe and Schiller). These problems are difficult to explain and I think it results from our cultural background and different understanding of an encyclopedia. We have a very strong exclusionist faction.
Do Germany's censorship laws regarding violence and the depiction of banned symbols impact the German Wikipedia's coverage of computer games? How does the project handle computer games that have been banned or significantly altered before release in German markets?
- It's not as harsh as one may think. Our laws only prohibit the advertisement of banned games, but we are still allowed to write about it in an educational context. Nonetheless, screenshots of the original version of Return to Castle Wolfenstein with Swastikas on it or depictions of brutal kills and dismemberments might be a problem. But normally we do not come to this point (see next question). If the game gets cut or banned, it is normally mentioned in the article. We also have a category for banned games. Apart from that, there is no real difference.
How do the German Wikipedia's rules regarding screenshots and covers differ from the English Wikipedia? How difficult has it been to acquire images for articles about computer games?
- We have no fair use law in Germany, so normally it's quite difficult to get screenshots and covers because of the copyright and threshold of originality. We would need an approval from the copyright holder to release the pictures under Creative Commons. In most cases that's an impossible task for us. So normally we have to stick to simple logos.
Video game articles on the English Wikipedia have occasionally been criticized for focusing too much on plot details and trivia. Has the German WikiProject Computer Games also dealt with these issues? What can be done to prevent the accumulation of fancruft?
- To some extent we have the same problem for older articles. We do not have the man power or organisational structure to provide quality assurance. Most project visitors are lone wolfs and for most of the time they are bound by control tasks. For new articles and articles that have a wide audience it's better in that aspect. Our strict quality rules and the obligation to give proof for everything prevent articles from being overburden with fancruft. Most authors simply oppose fancruft and therefore without neutral reception we simply delete it. Anonymous edits have to be sighted for all articles, new articles that do not meet the quality or relevance criteria in most cases get deleted pretty quickly. Because of the strict criteria, unregistered and new users may think articles have to be close to perfect. For them it's discouraging, for us it means if we really want to keep an article we have to do a lot of extra work to bring it up to the criteria. At some point editors stop fighting against the exclusionists and resign.
What are the project's most urgent needs? How can contributors from the English Wikipedia help the German WikiProject Computer Games?
- Most urgent needs? Contributors. We need authors that are willing to contribute new articles that meet our quality rules and improve existing articles. But at the same time, I worry that's too utopian. Direct help from the English Wikipedia is a difficult thing, because of the small numbers of project members on the German side and the "cultural difference." I think it would be hard to organize a constant dialog, something I think is essential. A good way to support us is producing free-to-use content (e.g. screenshots and logos on Commons) and high quality articles in English. For Germany and German universities, game studies is somewhat like a new frontier. That means we often do not have access to literature or simply do not know where to look for it. Give us the references, so we can use or copy them. Personally, I take a look at the English Wikipedia's references quite often, do some proof-reading and quality checks. Not having to do all "cite web" quotations manually for every single reference helps a lot and saves time.
Next week, we'll sing a song of high fantasy. Until then, dance with dragons in the archive.
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