Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (German Voluntary Monitoring Organisation of Entertainment Software) or USK, is Germany's software rating organisation. Since the modification of the Jugendschutzgesetz (Youth Protection Law) in 2003, it is now compulsory for all titles that are to be sold to the wider public to carry a USK mark.
Software can receive one of the following ratings:
|Freigegeben ohne Altersbeschränkung gemäß § 14 JuSchG (Without age restrictions)
There are no restrictions on the basis of the Jugendschutzgesetz on the sale of this game. The suitability for children, however, only relates to violent or sexual content - the difficulty or complexity of the game may still be unsuited to younger children.
|Freigegeben ab 6 Jahren gemäß § 14 JuSchG (Restricted to those below the age of 6)
Games with this rating may be of an abstract or comical nature, may have a darker theme or may be too involving for children under the age of 6.
|Freigegeben ab 12 Jahren gemäß § 14 JuSchG (Restricted to those below the age of 12)
Games with this rating may place a focus on wars or fighting of some description. The fighting should be in a historical or science fiction context and the violence should be kept to a minimum.
|Freigegeben ab 16 Jahren gemäß § 14 JuSchG (Restricted to those below the age of 16)
Games featuring frequent one-on-one gunplay and moderate violence will receive this rating. The game may cover adult themes.
|Freigegeben ab 18 Jahren gemäß § 14 JuSchG or Keine Jugendfreigabe gemäß § 14 JuSchG (Restricted to those below the age of 18)
These games may contain scenes of brutal, moderately bloody violence, and they may glamorise war or violation of human rights.
 The Index
Games that are refused classification are referred to the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien (Federal Verification Office for Youth-Endangering Media) and can be placed on the Index (a process known in German as Indizierung), upon which the titles may only be sold on request to adults over the age of 18, and are not to be advertised in retail stores or other media. It is permitted to use these titles in private but not to supply them to minors. Games that are on the index are marked with JK/SPIO-Gutachten.
 Censoring and banning
Games with a USK 18 rating or those placed on the index are not necessarily uncut, although as a general rule they are, with a number of exceptions. It is still possible for games to be banned in Germany - as is the case with titles such as Manhunt (violence) and the English version of Wolfenstein 3D (Nazi symbolism), which are not even available "under the counter" per the Index.
The ban on endorsing Nazism or displaying swastikas outside of a historical context applies to all titles. To avoid legal issues, many developers remove the reference to swastikas altogether, although the symbol of the 3rd Reich' s Army is still permitted. It is also permitted to feature a function in which one can assume the role of the German army in World War II as in games such as Sudden Strike and Axis and Allies, although this is a subject of controversy.