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Gamers committing war crimes should suffer 'virtual consequences,' says Red Cross

Gamers committing war crimes should suffer 'virtual consequences,' says Red Cross

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The International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed that it won't prosecute gamers for participating in pretend war crimes, but that doesn't mean it wants to leave the topic alone. The Committee has released a statement in which it outlines its desire to collaborate with video game developers to show the consequences of a player's actions if they engage in virtual torture, the harming of civilians, attacks on medical personnel, or anything else covered by the Geneva Convention.

It stopped short of clarifying quite what these consequences should be, suggesting only that "game scenarios should not reward players for actions that in real life would be considered war crimes." On the other hand, the ICRC feels players found "respecting the law of armed conflict" should be rewarded.

The ICRC says sanitizing video games is not realistic

Despite this statement, the ICRC claims it's "not involved in the debate about violence in video games." It's not interested in excising the offending scenarios from games entirely, arguing that "sanitizing videogames of such acts is not realistic" given such atrocities do occur in real conflict. Instead, the Committee hopes the consequences it requests will halt the potential "trivialization" of war crimes.

The ICRC's François Sénéchaud justified his organisation's request for consequences, saying "it's very difficult to make the distinction between real footage and the footage you can get from video games." His claim may be valid: in 2011, British broadcaster ITV used footage from video game Arma II to illustrate purported paramilitary action.

Arma II's developer Bohemia Interactive is the first game-maker to pledge their support to the ICRC's initiative. The Arma series — currently on its third iteration — is detailed enough to be used for training purposes by many of the world's standing armies. In the video above, Bohemia's CEO Marek Spanel describes how Arma III copes with the breach of conflict law, saying "if you do [attack friendlies or civilians] with friendly troops around, they will attack you."

The ICRC is focusing strictly on games that "simulate real-war situations." That leaves games with what the ICRC describes as "more fictional" settings — fantasy and sci-fi — out of the equation, but means the proposed consequences would be seen in games such as Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty: Ghosts, were their developers to acquiesce to the Committee's requests.