It’s a bold declaration to call someone a war criminal, but the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) could very well be changing the scope of war video games forever, since all of us gamers are technically war criminals! Ever shoot an unarmed person (POW)? Ever inflict unnecessary injury? Attack a church or mosque? Torture, degrade, or otherwise treat a prisoner inhumanely? You (and roughly 600 million other gamers) are a war criminal.
The International Committee of the Red Cross believes video games should be subject to the outcome of the Geneva and Hague conventions. The conventions developed laws to protect human rights, “freedom from torture, mutilation and rape, slavery, and willful killing […] forbids genocide, crimes against humanity.” These rules apply to all countries, regardless of the country’s role in the Geneva Convention. Given that these rules against war crimes are meant to protect all people around the world, it only makes sense to protect virtual people as well…or does it?
Kotaku published another article recently called “Video Game Wars Should Feel Real, EA Says,” which discussed how close to reality EA wants to bring war games. If games are developed to simulate actual battles, wouldn’t it follow that humanitarian laws apply? That would make sense for life-like war games, but there are plenty of war video games that are entirely fictionalized and are merely another creative medium for entertainment. Other creative mediums like books and movies are not being targeted because video games are interactive, giving gamers the opportunity to take “an active role” in forgoing international laws of humanity.
The last of the Geneva Conventions took place in 1949. Would it even make sense for games with real battle scenarios to follow these laws if they took place before the Geneva Conventions? How can rules be applied before they even existed? Maybe a loophole for game developers will be to set war games before the Geneva Conventions happened with a disclaimer saying, “The Geneva Conventions have since outlawed crimes against humanity that are so prevalent in this game (and are actually the basis for gameplay).” Even now, if you ride in an older car that didn’t originally come with seatbelts, you are not required by law to install seatbelts into the car. So where will the line be drawn in video games? What will happen to the Resident Evil franchise with genocide against African zombies? What consequences will result in blowing up a church or shooting a prisoner of war?
KitGuru says: Long gone may be the days where you can violate the rulings of the Geneva Conventions. Game developers may soon integrate international laws of humanity, or the Red Cross may “encourage governments to create laws that regulate the gaming industry.” So enjoy Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc. before these franchises are possibly altered forever. Video games are changing, along with your ability to be a war criminal…
Perhaps this will put an interesting spin on these games – kill a prisoner, and your character will be executed in one of ten ways. The International Committee of the Red Cross might just create a new reason for a “game over,” thereby producing entirely new mini-games…Will the ability to commit war crimes be extinguished completely, or will you be soon be able to get a new trophy/achievement for “losing 100 times due to war crimes” or “execution for every type of war crime?”