The uproar over 1378 (km), the educational videogame that was meant to mark the reunification of Germany, has pushed its release back into December.
Developed by Jens Stober, a student at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, 1378 (km) is intended to “awaken” interest among young Germans in their nation’s recent history by letting them step into the shoes of both East German border guards and refugees fleeing to the West. But as we’ve seen previously, the fact that it’s a “game” makes it entirely inappropriate for presenting such serious subject matter in the eyes of some: The Director of the Berlin Wall Memorial described it as an insult to the families of those who were killed while trying to reach freedom and Theodor Mettrup of the Association for Victims of Communist Tyranny said the game “makes a mockery of the victims.”
1378 (km) was initially slated for release on October 3, German Unity Day and, this year, the 20th anniversary of the formal reunification of East and West Germany. But the criticism has forced it back into December, when it will launch “alongside a website that will provide historical context.” What specifically the site will contain isn’t known, but Stober noted on the game’s website that it was never his intention to hurt anyone’s feelings. The game is now expected to come out in December following “a public discussion with distinguished guests” at Karlsruhe University, and will apparently carry an age rating of 18+
The title refers to the length of the border that divided East and West Germany in the years from 1961 to 1990. Roughly 5000 people managed to cross the border into the West prior to reunification; estimates of the number killed in the attempt vary but is generally held to be around 200. It seems likely that the 18+ age rating will have some impact on the game’s usefulness as a teaching tool, but on the other hand, if anyone ever asks how it is that you came to know so much about the partition between East and West Germany, you can tell them you read about it on a videogaming website.