Red Cross Won't Go After You For Playing War Games

Virtual war crimes won't lead to real world prosecution, the International Committee of the Red Cross clarified today.

While the international humanitarian group has discussed whether the Geneva and Hague conventions should be applied to the fictional recreation of war in video games, it isn't doing so to potentially prosecute gamers. Rather, they say, they hope to use games to raise awareness of the rules of real warfare.

Last week Kotaku reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross was hoping to get developers to incorporate Geneva and Hague conventions into video games. Some media outlets later reported that could mean potential prosecution of gamers.

The committee said today in a FAQ on their website on the topic that in a side meeting earlier this month the committee considered "various ways in which the rules applicable in armed conflict could feature in simulations".

The informal discussion, they said, did not lead to an adoption of a resolution or plan of action. Last week, a spokesperson told Kotaku that while no plan was formalised the issue was still under consideration.

When the story hit, it spurred a strong reaction from some who said that they felt that the organisation was wasting its time on video games.

Much of the FAQ addresses that concern.

"In real life, armed forces are subject to the laws of armed conflict," according to the site. "Video games simulating the experience of armed forces therefore have the potential to raise awareness of the rules that those forces must comply with whenever they engage in armed conflict — this is one of the things that interests the ICRC.

"Part of the ICRC's mandate, conferred on it by States, is to promote respect for international humanitarian law — also known as the law of armed conflict — and universal humanitarian principles. Given this mandate and the ICRC's long history and expertise in matters relating to armed conflict, the development of these games is clearly of interest to the organisation."

The committee went on to say that while real-life warfare is it's primary concern, they have the ability and staffing to deal with other issues.

"With its roughly 12,000 staff, the ICRC carries out humanitarian activities in situations of armed violence all over the world. It is often the first organisation to arrive on the scene when conflict erupts and to attend to the needs of people detained, displaced or otherwise affected. It also strives to bring about improved compliance with the law of armed conflict and thereby contribute to creating an environment conducive to respect for the dignity of persons affected."

While mandating the inclusion of humanitarian law conventions in video games is a bad idea, I think developers willingly including them could lead to some interesting new video games.

Is there a place for the laws of armed conflict in video games? []


    I think that incorporating these rules in video games could raise awareness, and lead to an accurate and interesting war simulation. But it shouldn't be mandated, that's just silly.

    I won't be donating to the red cross anymore for their stupidity of linking war crimes to gamers and judging by this second article they are feeling the heat for their remark.

      It sounds more likely to me that they were misreported. All they said at the time was that they were discussing the absence of human rights conventions in games. This is the first time they've revealed the outcomes of those discussions.

      I think if their goal is to raise awareness through games, then that's quite admirable. Its become apparent over the last couple of years that games and shows like 24 and fox news have changed peoples minds about what constitutes a human rights abuse, so its not surprising the red cross would look at ways to raise awareness. Sounds to me like they get the reach of the medium.

        "Its become apparent over the last couple of years that games and shows like 24 and fox news have changed peoples minds about what constitutes a human rights abuse" Proof? No, I didn't think so... go run off and find it now. Please make it creditable.

        "I think if their goal is to raise awareness through games, then that’s quite admirable." Maybe? But who are they to try and force others to do what they want? The admirable thing to do would be to make their own fun game with what the deem acceptable and lead the way. But they won't do that... Why? Cause of the criticism they will get for either: No one playing the game -or- People thinking they didn't get the realism right and thus being a part of the problem (AKA America's Army Game).

          Well, it was fairly widely reported that the Bush administration used Jack Bauer as a guide for their 'enhanced interrogation' techniques.

          The Red Cross should not be spending donation money on making video games. It is far outside their core competency and not what people donate to them for. Advocacy is one of the things they're good at, so they should be guiding developers interested in making their games more complex and interesting.

            You mean the ‘enhanced interrogation’ they used on people that admit they're the enemy of the United States? People who were willing to kill people of their own people at the drop of a hat?

            But that's besides the point, I said proof that it change public opinion... you haven't quite stated it.

            It's ok for Red Cross to 'guide' peoples opinion? But it's not ok for others to 'guide'?

            "All special operations units in all branches of the U.S. military and the CIA's Special Activities Division [134] employ the use of a form of waterboarding as part of survival school (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training, to psychologically prepare soldiers for the possibility of being captured by enemy forces.[135]" -
            I know it's Wikipedia but you can chase the rabbit hole if you wish.

              As far as 'changing public opinion' is concerned, I would submit this as evidence - a few years ago, representatives of the Army went to the trouble of meeting with the producers of 24 to discuss the effects that they perceive the show's depiction of torture is having on new troops, specifically arguing that in the Army's experience, they're finding that troops are more open to torturing people. (

                *slaps forehead* I said proof!

                "I think there is no question (that torture scenes are having an effect). We have spoken to soldiers with experience in Iraq who say, for young soldiers, there is a direct relationship between what they are doing in their jobs and what they see on TV. The image of the US and its military is being affirmed."

                This is an opinion! What is the relationship? what are the numbers? What is considered to be young? When did they enroll?

                  I was actually referring to the Red Cross's own research on the subject i.e. the research they base their decisions off. This article summarises some of their research and provides the relevant links

                  I can't provide proof as you demand it, short of locking children in cages and raising one group on 24 and a control on Barney - I can only provide correlations - a steep rise in media representations of torture and a corresponding increase in a perception amongst young Americans that torture is OK. Before you go off squealing that this isn't good enough, keep in mind this is the exact same research paradigm that linked smoking to lung cancer.

        Just like to add "by no one playing the game" I also meant it being considered a waste of money.

          As I said, the article includes links to the actual report, which is several years olds by the way. From your questions I can tell you didn't read it. Suffice to say the read cross has been surveying this stuff and doing media studies for am extended period.

            Dude... come on,

            it took me here:

            a homepage, i even search the daily beast for the report, i found nothing.

    I would like to thank Crecente for starting up and then shutting down the misguided panic around this issue.

    Because this would raise children's awareness on humanitarian laws and make them think twice about sparing the life of an evil man and not torturing him so he can be sent to exile on a nice, cozy island or not sparing his life and torturing him so you can pump valuable information out of him so you can save billions of lives.

    They should still ban landmines in video games, though. Damn claymores.

    Are you guys intentionally misunderstanding this story? I know it can be fun to get all worked up and self righteous...

    The red cross isn't trying to ban or enforce anything. If you read the original story, it was a group of people getting together at a conference to see basically how they could engage with the video game industry to promote understanding of international humanitarian law. As they note: 600 million people play video games - that's a pretty large and important audience.

    So what's wrong with them engaging/discussing with the games industry? Would that really offend anyone? I agree it shouldn't be mandated, but that's never really been the argument. This isn't about censorship.

    And finally, this isn't just (or even largely) about torture. International humanitarian law also deals with the protection of civilians during armed conflict, the protection of health workers and the rights of prisoners of war.

    Or you could all continue working yourselves up into an indignant lather.

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