One thing I notice regularly in Germany is that video gaming is not very popular in German politics. Games are even considered as dangerous for the youth, the conservatives tend to call many of them “Killergames” and they are seen as a productivity killer and a waste of time. Only the rather small “Piratenpartei” openly supported the e-sports idea. One reason of this might be that political decision makers are too old to understand the phenomenon. 81% of German 14-29 year old play video games, while only 25% of the 50-64 old people.
Germany could learn a lot from the US to accept video gaming as a modern media, while politicians do not take them seriously, because gaming could also generate a general interest in IT, hard- and software development and programming. Actually, I learned a lot from videogames – they helped me to lear English and created interest in security policy and strategy. I also noticed in 2005 that our commanding General had no idea about network centric warfare and also admitted that he was too old for it, while this was on the youth’s agenda for years, because of for example Command & Conquer Generals or Battlefield2. Even my squadron commander had the opinion that “Killergames” should be forbidden, while we were at the same time running out of young people who were willing to serve as a soldier after the de-facto abolishment of conscription, so you can see at this example how unpopular games are in the population group at the age 50+.
What I want to emphasize is that videogames are today a part of popular culture and a possibility to connect young people from different countries with the same interest and passion.
Obviously – too few young people engage in transatlantic understanding. America-bashing is “in”, due to the disastrous decision of the Bush-administration 2003 to invade Iraq or the scandals following the election of President Trump.
A common understanding could be created by concentrating not so much on politicians, but on pop culture instead, especially through a modern medium like videogames. Most of the games played in Germany actually come from the United States, especially California, and were produced/ developed by companies like Blizzard, Electronic Arts, 2K Games and many more.
Games can enhance the understanding of historical and political events on both sides of the Atlantic, for example military history or tactics, which the following examples show:
In “Counter-Strike” players from all over the world have been fighting since 1999 against terrorists in the role of German GSG9 elite policemen. After 9/11 the once unrealistic scenarios became almost scarily realistic.
In the “Call of Duty” games you typically fight as a US soldier and quite often in Germany, weather in the 2nd world war against the Wehrmacht or in this case in Hamburg to rescue the US Vice President, who has been captured during a head of state summit.
Few games showed the devastation of a Cold war gone hot as drastic as “World in Conflict”, including a soviet attack on Berlin with desperate American and German soldiers trying to survive together.
In Assassin’s Creed III, the player learns a lot about US history and participates in the war of independence.
In Fallout, you can visit the same locations like Boston or Washington, just 300 years later, after a fictional World War 3.
The USA are the leading nation in producing high quality games, just to mention World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, StarCraft , Fallout and many more. These games produced billions of dollars, even twice as much as the Hollywood movie industry.
While you watch a movie for 90-180 minutes, you play video games for 100+ hours, simply because of creativity, open worlds and side stories. These open worlds create virtual countries which you can visit together and therefore it might feel like you lived in the same country with a foreigner, when you discuss your common experiences in these fantasy worlds.
To enhance understanding between young Germans and Americans one could for example focus on an event like Gamescom in Cologne, one of the world’s biggest game trade fair. One possibility could be hosting an e-sport event. Unlike the USA, Brazil or South Korea, Germany does not recognize gaming / e-sports as a sport at all and therefore gives not much financial support to successful players, because of more skeptical media coverage, despite the fact that the games produce more sales than soccer. In Korea and the USA, gamers can live from their price money, if they are good. In Germany they are threatened by social decent.
To conclude my essay, I think the bridge between the Atlantic has already been rebuild by internet gaming, but to connect even more, Germany has to support young people to engage in young, promising branches like game/ software development. The USA are the leader in game development and therefore Germany could learn a lot by supporting for example not only movie makers, but also game programmers.
Young people should be encouraged to go to the USA/ California as interns into the gaming branch, sponsored by for example the ministry of education or economic affairs and energy. There is a large potential to bring young people from both sides of the Atlantic together, online and in real life by building mixed bilateral e-sport teams or gaming companies. Germany needs further exchange with the US-knowledge to keep pace, because not only gaming companies are located in the silicon valley – the step from gaming to Google, Facebook, Microsoft or Intel is not far.