The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wants developers to consider building “virtual consequences” for mayhem into their video games.
“Gamers should be rewarded for respecting the law of armed conflict and there should be virtual penalties for serious violations of the law of armed conflict, in other words war crimes,” read the ICRC’s new statement on the matter. “Game scenarios should not reward players for actions that in real life would be considered war crimes.” (Hat tip to CNET for the head’s up.)
Like many a concerned parent or Congressional committee before it, the ICRC believes that violent video games trivialize armed conflict to the point where players could see various brands of mayhem as acceptable behavior. At the same time, the ICRC’s statement makes it clear that the organization doesn’t want to be actively involved in a debate over video-game violence, although it is talking to developers about ways to accurately build the laws of armed conflict into games.
“Violations occur on real battlefields and can therefore be included in video games,” the organization added. “The ICRC believes it is useful for players to learn from rewards and punishments incorporated into the game, about what is acceptable and what is prohibited in war.” This apparently doesn’t apply to games that incorporate either fantasy or science-fiction warfare—the ICRC is clearly more concerned about battlefield simulations such as Call of Duty than particle-beam-wielding spaceships or ax-swinging dwarves. (It’s also not all that worried about “traditional media” such as movies, as video games require players to make active decisions and thus constitute an “unprecedented novelty.”)
But let’s be clear: the ICRC doesn’t want to spoil players’ enjoyment of the aforementioned digital splatter. “We would like to see the law of armed conflict integrated into the games so that players have a realistic experience and deal first hand with the dilemmas facing real combatants on real battlefields,” the statement continued. “The strong sales of new releases that have done this prove that integrating the law of armed conflict does not undermine the commercial success of the games.” In other words, no preachy in-game dialogue boxes explaining how most people would probably frown on your character’s decision to torture an antagonist with a pair of pliers and a Miley Cyrus song on repeat.
Just wait until Grand Theft Auto VI, when a Red Cross representative appears onscreen to give your characters a stern talking-to as they demolish yet another square block of prime Los Santos real estate.
Image: Rockstar Games