In a recent statement, the Red Cross has expressed their contempt for a group of unnamed (while not directly stating which games they are talking about, you can clearly tell by reading their statement are Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Medal of Honor) games and their use of war crimes in them. Their target is any war game set in modern time that gives players the opportunity to commit heinous war crimes that would be punishable in reality.
Before people start overreacting, the Red Cross believes not that there should be real life punishments for committing war crimes in video games, or even that war crimes should be taken out of video games; their main message is that some form of virtual punishment should exist within the video game for doing things in a time of war that would be illegal to do in reality. Punishable actions would include: killing civilians, torturing war criminals during interrogation, killing prisoners, or attacking medical personnel. Not only do they want punishment for illegal acts, but also rewards for players who act according to the law.
The Red Cross stated that they are interested in this topic because they believe that video games have influence on a person’s behavior. Therefore if someone plays a modern military game, commits war crimes while doing so and are not punished, they may subsequently enlist in the armed services and believe this behavior is acceptable. This is a preemptive strike on the part of the Red Cross. They have reported that they are actually working with video game developers to help“accurately incorporate the laws of armed conflict in their games.”
This really isn’t a bad idea. The video game industry has gotten a lot of grief lately over the amount of violence included in them. This proposed solution does not remove the violence from games, but instead lets players know when they are getting out of hand by mercilessly killing innocent people. This also only affects war games and is not at the moment targeting games like Grand Theft Auto where you can kill anyone at any time, innocent or not. It also does not affect fantasy games that are set in fictitious worlds. I am all for the Red Cross taking this stance and offering up their help to developers and I hope that more of them start taking advantage of their resources. In the end it will all come down to how they go about implementing this though.
This article can also be found at on IGN.