Political and non-Political Parties

Wednesday we returned to Parliament  to visit the building itself.  There is this giant funneled dome over the Parliament building that serves as a viewing point for most of Berlin and a sustainable water, light and heat source for the old building.  Truly cool.

We then headed of to the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Union, the leading political party in Germany housed in an incredible building designed to mimic the lines of a ship.

Our host and guide for the experience was Sidney Pfannstiel, a former journalist who now is the head of  marketing and internal communication for the party and head of production for the party magazine. He is also a member of the annual German Games Prize Jury.

We were also there to meet the Secretary General of the CDU, Dr. Peter Tauber, #2 man under German Chancelor Angela Merkel and the political head of the party, according to Sidney. Some of Tauber’s interests are Net Policy and Games and he is the youngest SG in the party history.

Tauber told us that he doesn’t have as much time to game as he used to before becoming SG.  These days he plays FIFA 13 on his iPad on planes and smart phone Risk.  When he has time on the weekends he plays Skyrim but he hasn’t finished it yet, one of the reasons being the time it takes to remember where he last left the game. (Shades of IGM “game replay research!”)

When I asked him about the current German policy on Data protection and opt in vs. opt out, he said that current policy has “Too much focus on the risks, not enough on the benefits”  He, like Thomas, is looking forward to an EU standard approach that is less restrictive.

I asked him as gamer, what did he want to see in the next five years.  He said

“I want to see that there are several places in Germany that develop strong games companies. Berlin is an interesting place for developing games.”

“Even now we have to explain to politician and our older citizens that games are not only about having fun in our free time, they have cultural, and positive economic impacts. We still have to explain to people who have not grown up with them why this change has occurred over the past few decades.”

“I have discussed serious games this morning with several colleagues of mine to talk about how to integrate games and gamification in schools and education. It has changed some in the past few years but we are not where we want to be.”

He then had to run (really it was amazing to be able to have someone like that grace us with any of his time at all, thanks Peter and Jorg!)

Next it was time for Sidney’s presentation and tour. He gave us a great rundown on party history and impact on German society. Hannah and some of the other students got into a good discussion with him (Sidney also had a little help from Jorg) on the difference in the US and Germany (and really Europe to a certain extent) on the meaning and impact of being a Christian political party.  The point being that after World War to the party founders needed to reaffirm policies based on Christian (or what I might refer to as common Judeo Christian values) in the face of the war’s aftermath, but at this point in time these were affirmations of ethical views more than religious.  Sidney cited how changes like a party leader and chancellor who was…

  • a woman
  • divorced and remarried
  • childless

and the party’s support for gay marriage were other indicators that it had kept modern and more secular than hard-line and “Tea Partyish.”  (My words, not his) Apparently aother change is in the status of women overall.  Sidney told us with a grin that former chancellor Helumt Kohl used to refer to Merkel as “his girl,” but that ceetainly wouldn’t fly these days.

He then showed us more of the building including the television studio and the “Germany Room” a meeting room for which everyone of the 16 German states had donated a chair that represented the classic handicraft/style of the state.  He told us we should tell the White House and/or Congress that they needed a similar “US” room :-)

On the way out we ran into Klaus Schuller, who’s level in the party org chart is similar to SG Tauber’s only his focus is on party logistics, facilities, mechanics, etc.  He goes to Texas regularly to partake of Country and Western music and told us that he’d just been laughing with a friend over a Klon (Cologne) band’s cover of “All my Exes Come from Texas.” :-)

That evening we were off to a party on the roof of Games Academy College and University.  In Germany, and across Europe, private colleges are the exception, not the rule.  Games Academy was the first private school in Germany to teach game development and art.  It began in the year 2000 and has offered one and two-year certificate programs.  Games Academy University was just approved this January and offers four year Bachelors Degrees.

They have excited, passionate students working on some fun game projects and the RIT, UPB and GA students quickly broke the ice and chatted away like old pals.

I had a great chat with Thomas Dlugaiczyk (head of the GA College and founder) and Sylvius Lack (Head of the GA University) about differences in our programs, the joys of setting up new degree programs in Germany vs NYS, the switch from quarters to semesters etc.  We’re going to work together to see if there’s a way I can come over for a couple of days or a wekk to lecture there.  Should be fun if we can make it work, especially since their web page says all classes are taught in German ;-).  Perhaps Intersession or during the summer next year.




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