Red Cross Wants Real Life Laws Enforced Within Virtual Worlds

from the reality-fiction-all-the-same dept

Kotaku has published an article in which the International Committee of the Red Cross proposes that real life laws such as the Geneva and Hague Conventions should be enforced within video games. Before you get too riled up, they are not proposing that video game players be locked up and punished for war crimes for actions performed within the game, but are rather proposing that game designers program those conventions into the games.

In computer and video games, violence is often shown and the players become ‘virtually violent’. However, such games are not zones free of rules and ethics. It would be highly appreciated if games reproducing armed conflicts were to include the rules which apply to real armed conflicts. These rules and values are given by international humanitarian law and human rights law. They limit excessive violence and protect the human dignity of members of particularly vulnerable groups.

The practically complete absence of rules or sanctions is nevertheless astonishing: civilians or protected objects such as churches or mosques can be attacked with impunity, in scenes portraying interrogations it is possible to torture, degrade or treat the prisoner inhumanely without being sanctioned for it and extrajudicial executions are simulated.

These types of arguments are very similar to the arguments made by those who have requested laws regulating violence in video games in the past. Those people argued that the lack of consequences in the game would influence player behavior in real life. We know that the US Supreme Court rejected those arguments as the science behind them was not sound. But we all know that pesky court rulings never get in the way of those who want to control human behavior.

The Red Cross is looking to have game developers to voluntarily include these laws within the game world noting that some developers already take the time to do it. If that fails, it has no qualms about getting the government involved.

One possible course of action could be to encourage game designers/producers to incorporate IHL in the development and design of video games, while another could be to encourage governments to adopt laws and regulations to regulate this ever-growing industry.

I don’t know why they think that a law regulating this would succeed, especially this soon after the US Supreme Court ruled that such laws are a violation of the US Constitution. Even with all that, such a law would be just as pointless as applying it to a movie such as Commando or Rambo. People look to entertainment as an escape from reality. Why would they want to play a video game that would end up with them being punished for war crimes? That doesn’t sound like fun to me.

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Comments on “Red Cross Wants Real Life Laws Enforced Within Virtual Worlds”

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Anonymous Coward says:

In Call of Duty Black Ops they fill a prisoner’s mouth with glass and punch him in the face. For no reason. Later on you are captured and forced to play Russian Roulette with another prisoner. In Mercenaries 2 you have to defend a church that is being used by insurgents from an attack by the state military. Plenty more examples out there.

The Red Cross is on to something here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Some of these first person shooters are said to fairly authentic. Wouldn’t add to the authenticity to have laws and regulations like this enforced or at least given lip service to in the game world? Sure you can play a war simulation ignoring the rules of war it just should be shown to be at some cost to the character playing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I think this autenticity is the problem, but let me elaborate.

The real problem does not lie with the game, but rather that this kind of actions are actually done be intelligence agencies (what an irony that designation is…) and that the red cross actually is absolutely powerless to stop it.

So instead of actually trying to change reality they go on to shoot the messenger so that they can bask in there alleged moral superiority by having done something to protect human rights while the only thing they actually accomplish is that any media portrayal and in extend every real public discussion gets shut down. Out of sight, out of mind.

What they don’t realize is, that these scenes are actually quite controversial and widely criticized in public, so rather than trying to ban they should use that debate as a platform to steer the discussion to the real war crimes and cruelties committed on a daily basis.

This course of action is just a pathetic attempt to force the media to show a clean and happy world where there is none in reality.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Lets ban the Iliad because they slaughter animals too.

Wow. If you think slaughtering animals is the worst thing in the Iliad, I suggest you read the non-Disneyfied version. Frankly, the level of barbarity in the poem outstrips just about any modern video game, movie, or book you could name. But I guess the same could be said for most of the bronze age myths as well.

Kevin H (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree, I found myself questioning my moral compass recently when I was sniping the enemy as they approached my hide. I knew that they would do anything to save each other so instead of shooting to kill, I shot to wound. I would get them in the stomach and let them suffer to draw out the squad mates. Then as they came into view I would do the same to them. Eventually they would die, but not before demoralizing the rest of them. They grew more desperate as their friends screams became more muffled and began to fall silent.

Or that was a scene from a movie I once saw. Given the realism of today’s video games I find it hard to discern right from wrong, reality with fiction.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

However, such games are not zones free of rules and ethics.

[Citation Needed]

The field of ethics somewhat necessarily depends on the framework of the universe it is embedded in. I’m pretty sure that bluffing in poker is not considered unethical, for example. Likewise, shooting a wounded player in Battlefield 3 is not unethical, because the framework of that game does not allow for the nuances of the real world, nor are the consequences for that action remotely similar.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Red Cross is right, pixels used to generate people in video games are people to! Killing innocent pixels (err, people) in games leads to a life of violence! Let me explain my own story of violence!

When I was a kid I used to love playing a racing game called Road Rash, not to win the races, but to run over as many innocent civilians (and animals) as possible, including the guy waving the flags at the start of the races! Horribly violent isn’t it! I may have come in last place, but I beat up a few cops, and ran over half the civilians in the area during the race!

Then I got older and got my driver’s license! Ut oh, so how many people have I run over, how many cops have I beat up? Well… none… but I have almost hit a few innocent pedestrians that I didn’t see, isn’t that violent enough for you to see we need to do something about video game violence! Well I guess not, since I didn’t hurt anyone. But… think of all the grass I’ve killed by driving my car over it! Video Games made me violent enough to murder grass and take pleasure in doing it with off road driving!

Maximus Aurelius says:


What’s next?! Applying the 13th Amendment to animals…? Oh, wait…

Seriously, this has less than zero chance of going anywhere, beyond a thought exercise. Stunts like this should make people think twice before giving money to the Red Cross, as this demonstrates the organization has too much money and not enough focus on real-world problems.

Ninja (profile) says:


Look, I was playing this game, MAdworld these days. It’s a monochrome game for Wii in which only the blood is colored (in red) and it consists of killing ppl mercilessly in the most brutal ways possible.

Yet I wouldn’t punch any1 unless the person is a real threat to my life. Yet I find it horrifying when I see news about rapists, murderers, war crimes etc and (wow!) I’m engaged in some efforts to prevent such abuses (Aavaz etc).

The point is RC is missing the point. As Ishihara and the Unicef thing in Japan miss the point. Fantasy is where you get your mind free of the shackles of reality. It’s not real, normal ppl know it’s not real and they don’t feel like bringing it to reality. In my fantasy I may have an harem of female sex slaves. It doesn’t mean I’ll mistreat my girl in real life and treat her badly. In my fantasy I may see little lolis (ero and porn involving underage boys and girls) having sex but that doesn’t mean I’ll be a pedo in real life. It’s FANTASY.

Seems some ppl lack the ability to dream, fantasize and split real from fantasy and thus want to impose their handicap on everyone.

Go ahead, try to regulate my dreams and see me laugh as you fail 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

* That doesn’t sound like fun to me.

Why should people be allowed to have fun?

Besides, this kind of “fun” just encourages evil in real life. Another thing, we still permit those so-called “plays” like Macbeth and King Lear to be performed. These are just lessons in how to commit Regicide. It’s past time those were banned too.

Machin Shin says:

War Crimes?

I would like to take this moment to point out that these laws are universally ignored anyways. War crimes are just a way to kick the looser when they are down. When in a war you do what you have to do to win. If you win then who is going to take you to court? The winner of a war is not going to get punished, if anything a few scapegoats will be tossed to the court. It amazes me that anyone actually believes making “war crimes” actually changes anything.

MrWilson says:

Some games already do this anyway, like America’s Army, where the game is over if you shoot your commanding officer at the firing range. The topic was addressed in the movie Toys, in which the Colonel complains that the UN is always getting in the way in this arcade game he’s playing, so he has his game designers build one where you get points for killing civilians. The convention may indeed be an interesting aspect for a game developer to voluntarily use.

But it’s a slippery slope to think we need to include real world laws in all violent video games. What about games in which you’re playing a bad guy? It’s central to the conflict that the “good guys” will be trying to kill you. Why would you try to adhere in international law or the Geneva Convention if you’re playing an immoral bad guy?

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think you may want to rewatch Toys.

He was playing a war arcade game and saw that the UN vans kept getting in the way. In frustration he began shooting only the UN trucks.

This was the scene where he realized that using a combination of arcade games and toys (or drones if you will) he could make war more efficient.

out_of_the_blue says:

You'll get in reality what you won't censor even virtually.

Guess I need to remind you who have the memories of gnats that last week a bill was passed making all the world a battlefield, putting into “law” that the military can grab anyone anywhere to hold indefinitely without charge, stripped of rights, subject to torture — with the stroke of a pen.

With video games, you ARE being conditioned to accept evil and tyranny. It’s long past time for a moral panic. You’ll have to live in the world you allow, and it’s already beginning to get grim out there.

O course, you kids won’t care about actual war crimes until affects you. — You don’t care now about those still going on in Iraq, hundreds of thousands dead based on a pack of lies. — But you’ve no basis to complain about being merely censored with SOPA when you don’t object to people being murdered. Morality can’t be pieced up. Evil can’t be kept “virtual”, it’s never safe to have that kind of “fun”.

And why do you wish to be able to commit war crimes within a game?

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re: You'll get in reality what you won't censor even virtually.

PaulT (profile), Dec 5th, 2011 @ 8:48am
“Have you ever met a conspiracy theory you haven’t fallen instantly in love with?”
How is what OOTB said a conspiracy?

out_of_the_blue, Dec 5th, 2011 @ 8:40am
And why do you wish to be able to commit war crimes within a game?
OOTB I just like to kill shit in video games. Broken glass in a prisoners mouth, FUCK YEAH!!! Kill puppies? Where do I sign up? Light them on fire, then piss on them to put them out. WOOO HOOO!!!

Guess what? IT IS NOT REAL. If anyone believs different then they have issues that would have come out, video games or not.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re: You'll get in reality what you won't censor even virtually.

“With video games, you ARE being conditioned to accept evil and tyranny. “

As with Movies, TV, etc, you are being desensitized to increasing violence and gore.

“you ARE being conditioned to accept evil and tyranny”
Look what the American ppl allow in their name all in the name of terror.

I dont remember where I saw it, but there was this cartoon that showed American troops showing up in Germany and gasping, and in the next frame was American troops showing up in Iraq and being like Cool!!

Because we are OK with this now:

abc gum says:

Re: You'll get in reality what you won't censor even virtually.

“… last week a bill was passed making all the world a battlefield, putting into “law” that the military can grab anyone anywhere to hold indefinitely without charge, stripped of rights, subject to torture — with the stroke of a pen. … You’ll have to live in the world you allow”

I allowed this how – exactly?
Do not tell me I voted for this, because as everyone knows, that is BS.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: You'll get in reality what you won't censor even virtually.

That’s odd, I coulda sworn Obama said he was gonna veto this bill.
Yes, I do understand where you’re coming from, you’re more worried about this military bill than you are about SOPA. I myself oppose injustices like this in every form, so I talk against SOPA and against the military bill.
And what’s with your last question? Of course I want to commit virtual war crimes! It’s fantasy! An outlet for pent up aggression! There have been days where I feel like murdering a bunch of people, so I go home and play something violent, like Bioshock. What if this applies to computer game versions of chess? I have a piece ready to capture my enemy queen, but Red Cross rules say I have to let her surrender, or my taking her could be considered rape etc?

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

I'm with the Red Cross on this one

I agree with the Red Cross, but not for the reasons they give. Game developers should start putting the Geneva and Hague Conventions, the US Constitution, and other countries constitutions into games. Use it as an educational opportunity, let players learn their rights for use in the real world.

This, however, should never be government mandated.

MAtt says:

Re: I'm with the Red Cross on this one

Violent video games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield are realistic only to the end that players experienced something more organized than a massive free-for-all shoot ’em up (which is an option in both games).

If some game developer really wants to create a realistic game – including embedded reporters, media distorting the truth, insurgents using civilians as cover, etc. – they will fail miserably on one point over all others: We don’t play first person shooters so we have to wait for proper authorization to fire our weapon. We play them to kill shit and blow things up.

TheStupidOne says:

Easy Fix

I agree with RC that gamers should be aware of the rules of war, but I disagree that they should be forced to follow them. So here would be a simple way for game designers to implement the conventions: At the end of each level give the player a rating on how well they followed the “rules” … Perhaps give them a “Probability of being convicted as a war criminal” rating, or a “You’ve committed war crimes equivalent to” then name some terrible person. Of course via the law of unintended consequences you’ll most definitely see people playing to get 100% probability of conviction or being compared directly to Hitler.

Pickle Monger (profile) says:

How far can we go?

Would those rules apply to post-apocalyptic situations? How about the Rapture? Because there’s this new “Left Behind” video game is coming out and the players are supposed to kill Jews, atheists, and other assorted infidels if they refuse to convert to Christianity. Would the Rules of Engagement or US Constitution apply here too?
As a side note, I don’t have a problem with the stores selling this game as long as it’s stocked right next to Grand Theft Auto.

Scooters (profile) says:

You know, this isn't a bad idea!!!

The trade off will be to have the RC pop up tents anywhere there’s a major disaster (like the Oblivion gate opening) and I have many more places to loot.

Ooh! Then there’s the Blood Mobile, something we can jack in Grand Theft Auto!

Hold the phone! We can go so far as asking online people for donations!!!

Where do I sign up.

Robert Shaver (profile) says:

There are no violent video games

There are no violent video games because pixels are not people.

I’ll agree to this when hockey players are arrested for assault when fighting on the ice, which I think they should be, and the same rules apply to movies, TV, photography, books, magazines, music/songs, paintings, dance and all other forms of human story-telling.

It’s make-believe people … IT’S NOT REAL!

Overcast (profile) says:

The practically complete absence of rules or sanctions is nevertheless astonishing: civilians or protected objects such as churches or mosques can be attacked with impunity, in scenes portraying interrogations it is possible to torture, degrade or treat the prisoner inhumanely without being sanctioned for it and extrajudicial executions are simulated.

So… should we censor history too? That’s where many of these concepts come from – they don’t come from games, they come from the history of humans, many games are modeled after that, with fantasy tossed in, of course.

Anonymous Coward says:

*Get the torch and pitchforks*

Out..out…out of my games!!!!!!

You wanna see violence? Yea, go ahead, start mucking around in my hobby.

Get a life people.

I blame reality TV for people trying to come up with the craziest sh#$T just to have their name plastered around. Now everyone wants their 15 min of fame. Instead of limiting it to reality tv, it’s now bled over into IRL.

Get back in your hole, the lot of you!

Jay (profile) says:

Just a thought

Has the Red Cross thought about a few games that have a different thought process to them, thereby respecting the Geneva Conventions by showing them?

Warco happens to be one of those games. Instead of a gun, you have a camera. Instead of killing, your job is to document. Perhaps the Red Cross should look into making these unique ideas of storytelling instead of trying to enforce others to do the same.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ok – I agree that the Red Cross went about their objective in a totally self-defeating manner [Threating regulation? Really?], but …

I think their goal is a pretty good one. Whether you agree or disagree that video games influence real-world actions, they most cirtainly challenge players to think critically and make decisions that impact the game world. Players should be informed and challenged to complete their objectives with consideration of relevant conventions and treaties — factual or fictional.

In the process, players would encounter dilemmas parallel to those faced by our military and political leaders (obviously with consequences far more limitted). Within the game world, we would have a choice whether to uphold our standards possibly with greater challenge or risk to ourselves (our characters) or to violate them. And no Mike, the punishment does not have to be time served in a virtual jail cell – try to use a little more imagination. Punishment for violating the convention can come in a variety of manners be it increased resistance from local forces, defection of friendlies, etc (People only say etc when they run out of ideas, right? No argument here, but I trust our game designers can think of a few more).

Every gamer will draw their own line, but one can hope that they will consider new possibilities outside of a shoot-first strategy that could frame or semi-accurately inform real-world debate. I think that is the goal of the Red Cross… not censorship.

AR (profile) says:

reality check

War is violent, cruel, and destructive. Its supposed to be. Thats kind of the point. Thats also why you try to avoid going to war in the first place. War crimes happen in every war on both sides, both real and virtual. Its just that the losers are held accountable for their crimes in order to show how the winner was justified in doing what they did. The people who play the video games know the difference between fantasy and reality. Thats why they are playing the game and not shooting up the neighborhood. The Red Cross are the ones who dont know the difference, They are just trying to rule the fantasy world because they are afraid of getting caught in the crossfire of the real world. They also know that, in the real world, they arent really making a differance in stopping war crimes. If people see that they arent making a differance, then they might wonder why they are giving them money.

Anonymous Coward says:


“And obviously whoever wrote this hasn’t been in Iraq or Afghanistan…” And you have? Outside of your video game world, I mean.
“…where out troops have come under fire from insurgents…”. Out troops? Gays in the military is a whole different debate. Besides, if a foreign power invaded your country, took it over, occupied it, and killed its people, wouldn’t you become what the invaders would call an “insurgent”?

Jose_X (profile) says:

Flee restrictive games to scratch itch in reality??

Let’s say there is potential satisfaction is watching humans squirm, but there can be a dissatisfying effect from knowing a human is squirming. With games you can have the guilty pleasure (if you want that) without having to deal with the actual hurt and dissatisfaction that brings. You can explore and be more sure of how to handle such a situation should it ever arise.

If people want to ignore the negatives to focus on any pleasure they might have attached to torture, they will feed that hunger with insects, animals, and work their way up.. game or no game. Games do however provide a safety net for those who don’t want to get their hands dirty but don’t want to be denied decision-making or any potential guilty itch-scratching.

So, the Red Cross can certainly be brought into games to add game options and some of the reality we sometimes crave, but “can” and “must” are two different things.

In fact, adding restrictions in a game may lead some to seek reality as a way to cheat and beat the game restrictions — just what the Red Cross was trying to avoid!

Dillon C. Faris says:

Of course why majorly Yes

there are 3 major reason why these are already geneva 3 score rank signed for all free lands. Yes, btw. The major one is are border property field monitoring., What better way on how to view your side ranch yard fields from 70 or 200 miles away, but to have video recording monitor views screen for weather, condition, and when large major meat food animals and beasts go by.. Plus of course knowledge of when they enter and move into your lands and border. Right? and actuallity is the first good shooter video platform games were created and the region designs made from the pictures of peoples land borders and ranches. Um humm. Yes it is indeed. * Second? 2nd, land game warden practice and evaluation and ability of video at night camera experience. Plus when those assholes pop into your parks : ) hehe lol 4.-5,; .* Major reason, quiet rooms to practice night eye vidion for workers and park wardens alike.. ** And the third and greatest reason.. ? .,; Aigh a yes., To have safe reagions to view and try foreign weapons and foreign designs or send and pick’ed up weapons, and check, view, observe and set off dangerous or possibly dangerous weapons. The thing that is though., even on video recording., na, ; . The ability to correctly and full clearly view a weapon or firearms destruction through video or digital electronics., is rough and hard to fully camera capture. So in note they recorded all kinds of firearms on video and film capture and placed them in a video game., yes the one they made for large wide ranch fields, And made all kind of tecknikal heigherty and advancements, with capture and video camera monitoring and video digital monitoring, and advances in investigative picture video capture., And definining finally., a great utdoor video game with great graphics and especially at night is the most amazing way to heal your eyes from damage or work stress tiredness. And the ending finallity, with today’s teknilogikal information in video games from real life., it is a perfect way to introduce your young and new relation to the clear actuallities of what a firearm can do and what the realities of firing one are like, the the extreme largess of what some can do. hehe he. ha lol, and where are those damn blaster going to get here ? . * ; )

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