Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (German: Self-Monitoring of Entertainment Software) or USK, is Germany's software rating organization.

The rating for specific games may refer to localized versions, in which some elements of the game are changed in order to achieve a lower rating, or to ensure that the game may be legally sold at all. This is a very common practice, especially for games that would usually receive a "USK 18" rating. A potential problem of this "self-censorship" is that the original ambiance of a game may get lost. In some cases, the whole plot of a game had to be changed to qualify for a lower USK rating.

The IndexEdit

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.


Software can receive one of the following ratings (the icons below have recently been replaced by new ones):

USK none
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 for 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. This may include games like Point Blank, the Mario Kart series, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy and Super Mario Galaxy.
USK 12
Freigegeben ab 12 Jahren gemäß § 14 JuSchG (Restricted for those below the age of 12)
Games with this rating may place a focus on wars or fighting of some description, or contain mild lyrics and suggestive themes. The fighting should be in a historical or science fiction context and the violence should be kept to a minimum. This may include games like Ninja Assault, Super Smash Bros Brawl, three games of the Need for Speed series (Most Wanted, Carbon, Undercover) and Midnight Club: Los Angeles.
USK 16
Freigegeben ab 16 Jahren gemäß § 14 JuSchG (Restricted for those below the age of 16)
Games featuring frequent one-on-one gunfights and moderate violence (no visible blood) will receive this rating. The game may cover adult themes. This include games like Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.
USK 18
Freigegeben ab 18 Jahren gemäß § 14 JuSchG or Keine Jugendfreigabe gemäß § 14 JuSchG (Restricted for those below the age of 18)
These games may contain scenes of brutal, moderately bloody violence, and they may glorify war or violation of human rights. This may include games like Halo 3, Doom 3, or Hitman Blood Money.

Censoring and blacklistingEdit

Until 2003, it was still possible for USK-rated games to be blacklisted in Germany, but as of 2003, USK-rated entertainment software can not be put on the so-called Index anymore. Games with a USK 18 rating are not necessarily uncut, due to distributors striving for a rating.

An unrated game may be released and sold until further notice, but is forbidden to be sold to minors below 18 years old, even if it is clearly targeted at kids. The USK can reject a rating if they find parts of it to be unlawful, glorify war, or show suffering people in violation of human dignity. Then the BPjM can test whether to put the game on the Index or not. If the game is not placed on the Index, then it will be rated 18.

See alsoEdit

  • ESRB, the United States and Canadian computer and video game rating system.
  • CERO, the Japanese computer and video game rating system.
  • Australian Classification Board, the Australian computer and video game rating system.
  • PEGI, the European computer and video game rating system.
  • ELSPA, the former British computer and video game rating system, replaced by the PEGI ratings.