A story appeared in the Daily Mail stating that the International Federation of the Red Cross wants to see if gamers who play Call of Duty or Battlefield are in violation of the Geneva Conventions War Crimes statutes. Being as that sounds like the dumbest question ever it should be no surprise that it is not what the Red Cross was asking.
They had a discussion about working with game developers to incorporate real life treaties like the Geneva Convention into their games. You see, the IFRC works with developers who make war training simulators for real life soldiers. They make sure those training sims incorporate an understanding of international humanitarian law including treaties like the Geneva Convention. What the IFRC wants is to get the companies that make games for fun to think about the message they are sending.
Most war games don’t have non-combatants in the battlefield. They don’t give you the option of using minimal force or no force to obtain an objective. There’s no option to take prisoners. It’s all about killing anyone not in the same uniform as yourself. All the storyline is black and white. Your the “good guy” and every one else is the “bad guy”.
I think this is a topic that the war game makers should think about. Not just because it would be a good message to give, but from a fun point of view, imagine the challenge it would present as a player.
- Is that man I see in my sights a combatant? Do I shoot or let him go.
- Those men behind that wall were shooting at me but now they’ve dropped their weapons and surrendered. I don’t have the manpower to deal with prisoners. Do you leave squad members behind to make sure they don’t just regroup while I push ahead with the rest of the squad, do you confiscate their weapons and tell them to leave, or do you violate the Geneva convention by killing soldiers that have surrendered?
- Some of your men are killed in the fight. The men who you were fighting are taken prisoner and one or more of your squad wants to put a bullet in each of them as revenge for your squads deaths. Do you let it happen or do you protect your enemy?
- What if the game let you do any of these and programed consequences for each?
I think doing this would not only open up a much needed discussion of what happens in real wars, but it would also make for an exciting game.
What do you think? Does the Red Cross have a good point? Would you like it if war games were designed with humanitarian law as a core mechanic?
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