A computer game that casts players as guards who shoot people trying to flee across the old Berlin Wall, and the former fortified border between East and West Germany, has attracted such a huge following that the internet server offering online versions crashed.
The controversial game - called "1378km" after the length of the border when East Germany and West Germany were separate countries on opposing sides of the Cold War - went online just before Christmas and led to a death threat against its inventor and furious complaints from victims of the former East German Communist regime.
Germany's mass circulation Bild newspaper described it as "revolting", yet within an hour of its internet launch, the game's server crashed, unable to cope with the volume of people trying to download a free version.
Jens Stober, 24, a Karslruhe University student, says his creation is an educational tool for young people with little or no memory of the Berlin Wall.
"I deliberately included a shoot-to-kill element," he said, insisting that border guards were the "foundation of the game" and reminding his detractors: "In this game, if you shoot you lose."
The game is set in 1976 when both the Berlin Wall and the border were manned by Kalashnikov-toting guards with orders to shoot would-be escapers to the West on sight.
As guards, players can either kill escapers, imprison them or escape with them. Those who kill initially get a medal from the Communist regime and extra points. But eventually, killer guards are shot forward in time to the post-Berlin Wall era where they are in court facing murder or manslaughter charges, and must sit out several rounds of the game.
"Players think they win by shooting escapers, but then they unexpectedly find they're losers," Stober said.
"The moral is, in unusual situations, you can behave more differently than you think."
- INDEPENDENTBy Tony Paterson