Legal Opinion: The Red Cross wants more games to show the consequences of committing war crimes

War Crimez

By on October 10, 2013 at 11:23 am

I’m a big fan of The Witcher. Decisions really mean something. Save a villager, or slay a monster. Your choice dictates whether you shag now, or shag later. Consequences.

The Red Cross would like to see this gameplay in first person shooters. Arguing that games allow active decisions by players, they want to see real consequences and penalties for war crimes committed in game to raise awareness for the legal and humanitarian issues real soldiers deal with.

This is a noble goal, and games have done this successfully before. However, there are several hurdles in the way of this becoming standard within games, not the least that it requires cherry picking which laws you obey, and which you allow players to brazenly breach.

The downside to being Hitler

The Red Cross are especially concerned over four particular war crimes that appear in some games: Killing civilians, torture during interrogation, killing prisoners or the wounded, and attacking medical personnel (damn overpowered medics).

They argue that that since games involve active decisions, you should not be rewarded for deliberately committing these virtual crimes. Instead, you should take an in-game penalty. The Red Cross wants gamers to be aware of the humanitarian side of things: War isn’t just blowing everything to pieces with reckless abandon.

Before we get too indignant, however, the Red Cross does say video games should depict these crimes where appropriate. This isn’t censorship. They believe games can educate on the realities of war. They also qualify that all this only apply to war games with realistic settings. So while you could commit all those crimes in Fallout, it’s too far from reality to be a concern.

I get where they’re coming from. With games often being the most vivid depiction of war most people will encounter, there is cause for concern that players develop a balanced appreciation for what war really is. While there is no evidence that games incite violence, there is plenty of evidence that media can lead to a skewed understanding of a subject.

However, games often sacrifice realism in the name of fun. This is where laws start to break down.

What about other war crimes?

The first problem arises when the game has you deliberately committing crimes as part of gameplay. Two examples are Modern Warfare’s famous airport level, and even the possibility of shooting hostages in Counter Strike. But when you’re a terrorist, that’s kind of the point. How do games avoid rewarding players for crimes if they put players in the shoes of the bad guys?

Another thing is destructible terrain. DICE makes a very big deal about being able to destroy anything and everything in Battlefield 4. Bored defending a flag? Blow up a wall and admire the physics. Yet wanton destruction of property without tactical justification is a crime. Once the round is over you don’t want civilians having to deal with a Chernobyl when they could have had a mere Three Mile Island.

And what about Article 42 of the Geneva Conventions. You just downed an enemy plane, so you circle around to finish the job so the ejecting pilot can’t go cap a flag on foot. Wrong! You need to let the pilot parachute safely to land, giving them a chance to surrender. Fortunately Battlefield is let off the hook here. Wanting to respawn with their plane, most players will sooner fly into a tank at ramming speed than bail out.

Then there’s the prohibitions on weapons like clusterbombs, blinding guns, and excessive use of flamethrowers. However, these are only forbidden if you’re not playing as America, which has not signed this treaty. This introduces balancing problems.

Would it be fun?

So some practicality issues arise. But the real question is whether it would be fun. Games must always be entertaining.

There is a market for these games. ArmA 3 has your troops shoot back at you if you get too trigger happy. And remember SWAT 4? You could fail missions for killing people.  I loved that game. I also see potential for these elements in wave defence games like Mass Effect 3. Some grey moral choices could well fit within that style of game, and make the matches a little less shooty, and more RPG. Having to decide whether to rescue civilians, or blow up reapers on the fly could be fun.

However, adding these choices to the more arcadey FPS presents problems. Most of these games manage to avoid the truly egregious war crimes anyway. You can’t shoot civilians or hospitals or make hard moral choices in multiplayer Battlefield.  You can’t, of course, because adding these elements would just slow Battlefield down. No one wants to have to skirt around a hospital when you could just not put the bloody thing on the map in the first place.

26 comments (Leave your own)

The same red Cross that Apposes Gay Marriage. (Insert something witty here)

 

Technically, as the vast majority of videogames has you playing a character who fights on behalf of the West, namely America, the ramifications for committing war crimes are already highly accurate (i.e. none).

 

I think it could be interesting to see more games with this as a feature. There are plenty of games out already that give you the chance to play the Rambo archetype, a game that puts you in a position where you have to think carefully before you pull the trigger could be something that spawns an entirely new genre of military fps titles.

Of course that doesn’t mean the Rambo shooter must die, it just means this idea should be explored.

 
Lord_PorkSword

Star Citizen apparently will have consequences if you blantently kill other players, after they’ve ejected from their wreaked ship, or innocent civillians within law abiding sectors. Commiting these crimes(and others) will quickly earn you a warrant for your name so other players or AI characters can earn cash for capturing you.
A good idea I reckon!

 

lordporksword,

Who said anything about capturing :D

 

vcatkiller,

Tom Clancy’s Games allow this :)

 

I think it’s a really interesting idea. I agree that a game needs to be fun, and an arcade FPS could have something as token as flying over a hospital or whatever… MW2 had you fight through a school in the first level – it would have been nothing to add some voice acting explaining how they cant blow it up and have to just bust the insurgents or something.
It could translate to some RPG’s as well, I think. Think of Fallout, which lets you make a choice, and tells you which is right and wrong as far as it’s concerned, or Deus Ex at the other end of the spectrum, which give several options, but doesn’t reward or chastise either of the players actions: Why not a game where there are “good” “neutral” and “bad” choices, with their own set of pros and cons? (bearing in mind I know NOTHING of game development and admittedly haven’t given this idea an enormous amount of thought)

 

I think the Red Cross are barking up the wrong tree. Currently for instance if someone invaded your house for reasons of burglary or assault you are better off killing them and fighting the manslaughter charges than leaving them alive to sue you.

Not only that war itself is kind idiotic when you think about it for longer than 5 minutes especially the reasoning behind most of it. About the only time I can think it even close to acceptable is in defence against religious extremists as fanatics are very hard to discuss things with.

The final problem for the Red Cross is that with war all plans go out the window when contact with the enemy occurs. Most people will do almost anything to save themselves and their comrades so having to break a few so called rules usually won’t enter their mind as a problem.

 

RSOblivion,

^^ This, This is an intelligent reply.^^

 

RSOblivion: Currently for instance if someone invaded your house for reasons of burglary or assault you are better off killing them and fighting the manslaughter charges than leaving them alive to sue you.

This is actually a huge problem that seriously needs to be addressed in western society.

RSOblivion: Not only that war itself is kind idiotic when you think about it for longer than 5 minutes especially the reasoning behind most of it. About the only time I can think it even close to acceptable is in defence against religious extremists as fanatics are very hard to discuss things with.

Pretty much… The only time killing someone is the mature decision it’s pretty much exclusive to they think it’s their god given right to make the world end. Other than that there’s a better way to deal with the problem. Pity there’s so much of that in parts of the world.

 

Red Cross should release the game. Free to play, but commit a war crime and you have to make a small micro-transaction donation to the Red Cross.

 

RSOblivion:
I think the Red Cross are barking up the wrong tree. Currently for instance if someone invaded your house for reasons of burglary or assault you are better off killing them and fighting the manslaughter charges than leaving them alive to sue you.

That is one of the worst pieces of legal advice I’ve ever read. I also can’t understand how it’s relevant to a more accurate portrayal of the consequences of war.

Not only that war itself is kind idiotic when you think about it for longer than 5 minutes especially the reasoning behind most of it. About the only time I can think it even close to acceptable is in defence against religious extremists as fanatics are very hard to discuss things with.

Peace-keeping forces and forces requested by a country in need are also involved in armed conflicts. Some people are simply defending what is theirs. Some people think they’re reclaiming what is theirs, and was taken. Trying to simlpify human conflict and write it off as idiotic is a tad naive.

The final problem for the Red Cross is that with war all plans go out the window when contact with the enemy occurs. Most people will do almost anything to save themselves and their comrades so having to break a few so called rules usually won’t enter their mind as a problem.

Well for poorly trained or untrained people sure, but soldiers are trained to reduce friendly fire and civlian casualties in combat. I’m sure there are unreported civilian deaths where soldiers are protecting each other, but “all plans go out the window” is pretty insulting to the armed forces. There’d be no one left alive in Iraq if that was the case.

Hey… no mention of Spec Ops: The Line in the whole article?

 

submariner,

Or just Alt F4 and Try again XD

 

ooshp: Well for poorly trained or untrained people sure, but soldiers are trained to reduce friendly fire and civlian casualties in combat. I’m sure there are unreported civilian deaths where soldiers are protecting each other, but “all plans go out the window” is pretty insulting to the armed forces. There’d be no one left alive in Iraq if that was the case.

That would depend on who’s soldiers your talking about and what the plan was. Want proof, chemical weapons attacks in Syria, regardles of who was responsible civilians were the target.

As far as the consequences in games, if their going to do it go all the way, If you commit a war game you suffer the consequences UNLESS you kill all the witnesses then you get away with it. See if the Red cross think thats a good idea.

For the record I don’t actually disagree with them I just think they should do what they were set up to do, we have enough people trying to be the global conscience already.

 
Nasty Wet Smear

Does nailing foot soldiers with rounds meant for taking out tanks still count as a war crime? Cos I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve turned a turret on a single dude and pulled the trigger, knowing that he will be nothing more than a nasty, wet smear.

 

Red Cross are free to express their opinion, but really what is the purpose? Video games have nothing to do with the causes of war nor the subsequent misery and cruelty perpetrated as a result. If a person has to learn that war/war crimes is horrible through a computer game, then that is a poor reflection on the education system/cultural values of that country.

I have enough seriousness in my real life, I don’t need it in games (looking at you Spec Ops: The Line, Medal of Honor)

 

ooshp: Hey… no mention of Spec Ops: The Line in the whole article?

That was pretty much my first reaction as well. It doesn’t get much more of a textbook example then The Line.

 

I actually find games more tense/enjoyable when you have to be careful what/who you shoot.

Same goes for friendly fire – that can be a very good way of balancing some otherwise OP-weapons.

Flamethrowers for example… they can wreak some havok and at the same time block the enemies line of sight. When friendly fire is enabled or civilians are running around however, their use is greatly limited.

Likewise it is much more challenging to clear our a house room by room instead of calling in an airstrike to blow the whole building to pieces. (which you could still do after making sure that there are no friendlies in the area)

I love things like that, as long as they make sense in the context of the game.

 

nastywetsmear:
Does nailing foot soldiers with rounds meant for taking out tanks still count as a war crime? Cos I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve turned a turret on a single dude and pulled the trigger, knowing that he will be nothing more than a nasty, wet smear.

For US forces (last I heard) .50 cal rifles weren’t allowed to be used against people, they’re an Anti-Material Rifle, for things like light vehicles and gun emplacements. Of course smaller things like sunglasses and name tags are also valid targets…if people happen to be wearing them at the time so be it.

 

A quick search on the internet and you can find footage of tanks/heavy weaponry being used on foot soldiers. During the siege on the house Qusay and Uday Hussein were holed up in, U.S. Soldiers fired a TOW (anti-tank) missile at the house.

 
Leave a comment

You can use the following bbCode
[i], [b], [img], [quote], [url href="http://www.google.com/"]Google[/url]

Leave a Reply

PC Gaming Calendar 2014

Follow Games.on.net

YouTube

Steam Group

Upcoming Games

Community Soapbox

Recent Features
far_cry_4_2

Far Cry 4: Wielding the will to power

"A living being seeks above all else to discharge its strength. Life itself is will to power. Nothing else matters."

battlecry

Will Battlecry dethrone Dota or de-hat TF2? We play the game and speak to the team

In a world where gunpowder is banned, nations just stab each other instead to solve problems. We jump right in.

gta_5_ps4_xb1_1

Grand Theft Auto 5 comes alive on next-gen: We look at the PS4 re-release

With a completely overhauled engine and a new first-person mode, is GTA V's next-gen release worth your time?

amd_gear_winners

Gear up for Christmas with AMD: Winners announcement!

'Twas the month before Christmas, and all through the house...

dragon_age_inquisition_review_20

Inquisition is “a new foundation” for BioWare: We chat to Mike Laidlaw

Why can't you have an entire party of dogs? Why can't I turn into a swarm of bees? We ask these important questions and more.

Streaming Radio
Radio Streams are restricted to iiNet group customers.

GreenManGaming MREC

Facebook Like Box