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Red Cross: Penalize war crimes in video games

The International Committee of the Red Cross looks to work with makers of realistic war video games to build in consequences for war crimes.

Arma 3 screenshot
A screenshot from Arma 3.
Bohemia Interactive

Some war video games have reached an incredible level of realism and sophistication in their depiction of armed conflict. Everyday gamers can immerse themselves in the same sort of video games used to train real soldiers. The International Committee of the Red Cross wants these kinds of games to be so real as to also depict punishments for war crimes.

The ICRC is aiming to work with video game developers on integrating virtual consequences. It is especially concerned with crimes such as the use of torture during interrogation, deliberate attacks on civilians, and attacks on medical units. The organization doesn't oppose the inclusion of these acts in video games, since they happen in real life, but believes there should be penalties for players who engage in them.

The ICRC's focus is solely on simulations of real-world war, not fantasy games. It also has taken no stance on the level of violence in video games. "The ICRC is concerned that certain game scenarios could lead to a trivialization of serious violations of the law of armed conflict," reads a page dedicated to the organization's views on video games and international humanitarian law.

"It is very difficult to make the difference between real footage and the footage you can get from video games, so we are arguing that we have to get even closer to reality, and we also have to include the rules of the law on conflict," François Sénéchaud, head of the ICRC's Division for the Integration and Promotion of the Law, says in a video on the organization's stance.

The ICRC hasn't named any names, but games like the "Call of Duty" series have given players the opportunity to shoot wounded enemy soldiers and torture enemies during interrogation.

The Red Cross' offer to work with game developers has netted at least one taker. Bohemia Interactive, maker of the Arma series of realistic military games, is collaborating with the ICRC to build consequences for war crimes into its gaming simulations. "We don't want to try to hide reality," said creative director Ivan Buchta.