Red Cross Suggests Making War Games Less Realistic by Adding War Crime Penalties

Red Cross is wading into the debate on video game violence in a very particular way. It’s not asking for the violence to be less realistic. Rather, it wants the consequences of ruthless violence in war games to be more realistic. Wait, that’s not right either. The Red Cross wants the consequences of ruthless violence in war games to be the same as it wishes the consequences for real world war crimes actually were. Daily Tech explains:

Red Cross wants video game developers to add punishments for war crimes in their titles as war games continue to become more and more realistic.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wants realistic war games to imitate the real thing by employing virtual consequences for war crimes like torture during interrogation, attacks on medical units, and deliberate attacks on civilians.

"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," said François Sénéchaud, head of the ICRC's Division for the Integration and Promotion of the Law.

Would that mean that if the player has a random Yemeni family killed by drones, he or she will be sent a Nobel Peace Prize in the mail? Or perhaps the player would face the possibility of sanctions from the United Nations until Russia vetoes them.

Read more here at Slashdot as well.

(Hat tips to NP Complete and Felix Finch)

Follow this story and more at Reason 24/7.

Spice up your blog or Website with Reason 24/7 news and Reason articles. You can get the widgets here. If you have a story that would be of interest to Reason's readers please let us know by emailing the 24/7 crew at, or tweet us stories at @reason247.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Fear of consequences? Please.

  • ||

    That's only for rulers of shitty little countries that lose. Our leaders are above consequences.

  • ||

    To be fair, I do think a strategy-based game about modern US warfare from a command level could be interesting in that you have to make tough decisions about engaging the enemy and maintaining good relations with the civilians and the government who's country you are occupying.

    It would be different from your typical CoD FPS and possibly educational. The problem, of course, is that it probably wouldn't sell well.

  • Brian D||

    Sid Meier's Nation Building. I'd buy that.

  • Finrod||

    They made that game in the 1980s, it was called Balance Of Power. It was tough to get through without blowing up the world and was kind of boring to boot.

  • Drake||

    I was in a Civil Affairs unit for a little while - I fucking hated it and couldn't wait to get back to a combat unit. Nobody would buy that game.

  • stoneymonster||

    I've played plenty of games where you are penalized for damage to civilians, civilian structures, failure to protect innocents, etc. Is it an interesting addition to the narrative? Sometimes. Is it something that should be required by law? Hell no.

  • Floridian||

    Should not the red cross be suggesting a game where you get billions of dollars in donations to help out with disaster relief but in reality spend almost no money helping the victims

  • Fatty Bolger||

    The key to winning is to collect huge amounts of money for a current natural disaster that you will do little actual spending on.

  • Floridian||

    If the effected area recovers you lose.

  • angus||

    Same game platform could be for fighting terrorism or drugs or crime or poverty or environmental damage or illiteracy or well... anything else.

    Run around staging lots of newsworthy things and just so long as the problem is not solved - double your budget every decade.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Maybe the Red Cross can have a video game where surly, disrespectful phlebotomists, along with incompetent administration, chase off blood donors in droves, and the attendant consequences.

  • dantheserene||

    For an organization wholly reliant on volunteers to donate blood, their customer service tends to suck rather hard.

  • Dave Krueger||

    It's already annoyingly realistic. For example, you have to start over when you shoot your own guys for being idiots. WTF?

    Video games don't cause violence (or war crimes) anymore than porn causes rape. People, even kids, know the difference between fantasy and reality. I'm waiting for the day when some mass murderer claims that violent college football made him do it.

    We live in a culture that glorifies war from birth to death. It's all honor, patriotism, and courage, right up until you see your best friend's brains splattered all over your face or your spine is severed and you suddenly realize you just pissed your life away to satisfy the egotistical cravings of some occupant of the White House who's just returning favors from the military industrial complex or some other exceptionally powerful lobby.

  • Redmanfms||

    I'm waiting for the day when some mass murderer claims that violent college football made him do it.

    Violent ground-acquisition games such as football are in fact a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    No way, WarGames is a fine movie. No need for any Red Cross-approved, War Games: War Crimes Penalties Special Edition. I wish Hollywood would stop updating movies.

  • Hugh Akston||

    So how many people would you have to kill before you won the Nobel Peace Prize?

  • entropy||

    This strikes me as bullshit for another reason. WTF warfare video game is there that lets you torture people for information, attack medical convoys and target civilians? You can't do that crap in just about any major title anyway.

    When they claim that these games are becoming 'more realistic', their argument is actually that the graphics have become more realistic looking. That's got bubkis to do with the fictional gameplay they're bitching about.

    In fact, if I could think of just 1 noteworthy game ever that let you target civilians and kill small children, it was the original Fallout which I think came on the big soft floppy. You'd have to go back in time to find that kind of stuff not forward, the existing trend is already away from even allowing that kind of thing, let alone rewarding it.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    It's the same irrationalism that led Joseph Lieberman to say that first person shooters were "training" kids to be killers. And that was in 1996. A lot of the politically-minded, especially, soft, doughy, liberal types, can't seem to tell the difference between fantasy and reality.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Is that why they voted for Obama?

  • larry hammond||

    No, they did that because they are stupid.

  • ||

    I remember that. That was around the same time that Lieberman decided to do an investigation into breakfast cereal prices. I shit you not. He felt that $4 for a box of cereal that gave someone a bunch of meals was way too much.

    Again, I shit you not. I remember back in the run-up to the 2000 election, when running mates were being decided on, someone in my NYC office (TEAM BLUE, of course) was opining that Lieberman seemed "good". I laughed out loud and asked if he thought that a super-religious politician who investigated breakfast cereal prices was what he wanted in a possible VP. He kind of stammered, went "did he really do that?", and then shut up about it.

  • Calidissident||

    Outrage over the content of video games, not to mention music, television, movies, etc. is pretty common among social conservatives. Maybe even more common (definitely so in some aspects, especially those relating to sexuality) than among liberals.

  • Redmanfms||

    Of course, it's worth noting that the only attempt at actual legislation that got anywhere was lead by Tipper Gore and resulted in the RIAA "voluntarily" applying the Tipper Sticker to albums with "explicit" lyrics.

    So while the socons and "registered independent" "traditional Americans" make lots of noise about "bad things" they don't do much of substance other than bitch and it was a solid BLUE Dem that really went after explicit lyrics.

  • ||

    The ESRB that puts those instructive ratings stickers on video games came into existence as a direct result of the Lieberman and Kohl hearings in the 90's too. The industry was scared shitless they were about to be regulated out of business so they decided to beat the government to the punch. Guess who heads up the equally "voluntary" MPAA? Not a red-sate SoCon. That'd be Chris Dodd. As in former Democratic senator from Connecticut, namesake of the piece of shit Dodd-Frank financial industry regulation, Chris Dodd.

    Not that social conservatives don't support the same agenda, but it's the great grandchildren of the lunatic, control-freak progressives who actually implement it.

  • kevrob||

    ..and before Chris Dodd, Jack Valenti ran MPAA. He was an adman turned political consultant for LBJ. Hollyweird just loves to be represented by statists.


  • entropy||

    In some ways I think this pussyness (ever see a 'PG' movie from the 70's/80's? Content that would make it 'R' today) ruins a good few games. If you check out the game 'Overlord', it's kind of a cheeky fun concept and a fun game, but it's slightly ruined by the fact that even a spoof stereotypical evil character with glowing red eyes, a darth vader mask and a goblin army reincarnated from the souls of people he kills can't really do anything evil. You're just hack'n'slash carving your way through elves and humans with goblins instead of the reverse, and they do everything they can to make the elves and humans also evil and deserve it.

    'Sandbox' games like Oblivion and Skyrim that brag about letting you do whatever you want will do things like make all children quest characters so they are unkillable. Tom Clancy Ghost Recon/RAINBOW 6 games and even extreme outre games like Grand Theft Auto or Hitman get around it by just not having any children in the game to begin with. That scene happened once in Fallout and they never let it happen again lest they all get sued and they become the assholes responsible for getting video gaming banned. Sooner or later there will be another Newtown and if you had this in your game when that happens you would be held criminally liable for witchcraft induced drought.

    But if you play games you find on floppy disks from back in the last millennium they let you do all sorts of crazy shit. I think in Baldurs Gate you could sell people into slavery.

  • Scott S.||

    You could sell people into slavery in Dragon's Age: Origins. Nobody noticed because OMG GAY SEX.

  • BardMetal||

    You could sell people into slavery on Fallout 3.

    Or you could just kill all the slavers. I made sure to wear Lincoln's hat while wiping out the slaver city in the game.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    You could be a porn star in Fallout 2, for crying out loud!

  • Sevo||

    You could eat little colored balls in Pong!

  • Agammamon||

    You could sell people into slavery in Fallout *2*.

  • entropy||

    I thought the Gay Alien Sex Debacle was over Mass Effect just before Dragon Age.

    But what got me was all the other silly stuff that was said. They were claiming there was a slider in character customization that let you adjust the characters boobs (bullshit) and implying that it was some kind of porn game where you immediately jumped into sex scenes that you could play over and over in different combinations.

    In fact, to get a 30 second romance scene with kissing and then fade-to-black, you had to complete a long running optional romance questline that only culminated in a fade-to-black sex scene after about 36 hours into the game plot.

    Bill O'Reilly was on tv spouting total bullshit as if it was fact. Stunning, I know. Unbelievable.

  • Agammamon||

    Actually - I stumbled into the alien sex scene in the first ME. I *didn't* want to have a relationship (especially a physical one) with this weird looking blue alien chick and rebuffed all her advances and then *suddenly* we're screwing.

    I was kinda pissed at that bit of railroading.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Gxxxghjjk means no!

  • Mickey Rat||

    Truly Strangled by the Red String.

  • Killazontherun||

    That scene happened once in Fallout and they never let it happen again lest they all get sued and they become the assholes responsible for getting video gaming banned.

  • Killazontherun||

    Oh, Spoiler Alert. Hell, it was a spoiler for me. Didn't know Elanor was a big sister until now.

  • entropy||

    OK so there's 2.

  • Redmanfms||

    WTF warfare video game is there that lets you torture people for information, attack medical convoys and target civilians?

    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 had the player shooting up unarmed innocents in Zakhaev International.

  • Homple||

    Lots of these games are to war boners as inflatable robber dolls are to ordinary ones.

  • ||

    Remember, kids: don't steal that fucking sweet roll. You'll pay.

  • mr lizard||

    Dear Red Cross: Read the 1st Ammendment, while we brush up on the 2nd.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I hate how you can stomp on civilian mushrooms and turtles.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    To make it realistic, when you go to the weapons store the clerk chides you for your crimes but sells you the weapons anyway.

  • Slothrop||

    Playing one of the Fallout games once (1 or 2), when the game's combat system involved a die roll to determine if missed shots hit an unintended target, I once missed a shot on a mutant that instead connected with a child bystander and killed him. This was some random encounter, but having this happen turned the kid's parents from allies into enemies, whom I then had to kill also in order to get out of the scenario.

    This was in--what--1998?

    Somehow I think that now you wouldn't be allowed to make a game where something that inadvertently insightful about the realities of warfare would even be possible.

    (The US releases of Fallout 1 and 2 were full of child characters who, as my accidental killing of one in a random encounter demonstrates, could be killed all over the place if for some reason you got your jollies playing that way. Certain other countries--Germany was one, I think there were others--forced the company to produce an altered version in which there were no child characters at all, in order to comply with local laws stating that you can't publish games featuring violence against children.)


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties