Gaming

The intriguing history of gaming in East Germany

Imagine playing computer games with the Stasi watching over your shoulder. That was the reality for gamers in East Germany back in the late 80s.

The computer group at the HdjT during the 1980s was purely a boys' and men's club. Sitting in the center in front of a computer is Stefan Paubel, head of the club. © Stefan Paubel

Most of the 80s gaming narratives centre Atari, the video games crash of 1983, and Nintendo’s growing dominance from those ashes. But in East Germany, there was a rich and remarkable history of gaming and the Stasi were closely related to it.

Denis Gießler wrote The Stasi Played Along for Die Zeit and it’s an incredible retelling of the gaming scene in East Germany, emerging just before the fall of Communism and the Berlin Wall.

On the subject of imported C128’s and C64’s for a local computer club, Gießler wrote how the movement of Western hardware was okay, but the importation of software troubled the Stasi:

At the time, the Commodore model was the world’s best-selling home computer. But had it been up to the West, the computers would never have found their way into East Germany. In 1988, microelectronics were still on the list of embargoed products maintained by the Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls (CoCom). Western states had agreed they wouldn’t supply any technology goods to the communist countries of the Eastern bloc. But the C64s had made their way into East Germany nonetheless, and GDR customs officials allowed them to pass. They didn’t have a problem with the import of Western hardware. But software, and especially video games, were another matter. Their content was of great concern to East German officials.

Cue official police documents, informants, and secretive game playing under the falling but dangerous shadow of Communism. It’s an interesting read and you should watch Gaming Beyond the Iron Curtain: East Germany on YouTube for a more visual representation.

(h/t Hackaday)

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