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The Military Games Your Rights Online

Red Cross Wants Consequences For Video-Game Mayhem 288

Nerval's Lobster writes "The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wants developers to consider building "virtual consequences" for mayhem into their video games. 'Gamers should be rewarded for respecting the law of armed conflict and there should be virtual penalties for serious violations of the law of armed conflict, in other words war crimes,' read the ICRC's new statement on the matter. 'Game scenarios should not reward players for actions that in real life would be considered war crimes.' Like many a concerned parent or Congressional committee before it, the ICRC believes that violent video games trivialize armed conflict to the point where players could see various brands of mayhem as acceptable behavior. At the same time, the ICRC's statement makes it clear that the organization doesn't want to be actively involved in a debate over video-game violence, although it is talking to developers about ways to accurately build the laws of armed conflict into games. But let's be clear: the ICRC doesn't want to spoil players' enjoyment of the aforementioned digital splatter. 'We would like to see the law of armed conflict integrated into the games so that players have a realistic experience and deal first hand with the dilemmas facing real combatants on real battlefields,' the statement continued. 'The strong sales of new releases that have done this prove that integrating the law of armed conflict does not undermine the commercial success of the games.'"
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Red Cross Wants Consequences For Video-Game Mayhem

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  • by Flipstylee ( 1932884 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:53AM (#45070105)
    It's like every two missions i'm spending a month in the clink.
    • You've been a bad boy and your character is still in the penitentiary; please try again in 19 hours and counting...
      • by noh8rz10 ( 2716597 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:16AM (#45070447)

        in assassin's creed if you kill 3 civilians then the level ends. i think this is a fair approach. of course in GTA if you kill a civilian then you get his money and his car, although that's not a war crime so much as a regular crime. I don't play the CoD type games so I don't know how they address the issue.

        • by drakaan ( 688386 )
          Well, in CoD games, if you're playing multiplayer (as most players are), then there isn't a way to kill frendlies unless you play "hardcore" mode. In hardcore mode, you get kicked from a match if you kill teammates 3 times.
          • I thought that depended on server settings. Or at least I think it should. I'm sure that I would like with FF on during serious matches and NOT get kicked for FF.

            • by drakaan ( 688386 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:06PM (#45071197) Homepage Journal
              On XBox Live (the biggest installed base) and in public matches (the ones that count for experience points and weapon and player prestige), those are the defaults. League play doesn't have friendly fire or any of the other hardcore game settings enabled. The only way (in that player community) to play a game with FF on and not get kicked would be to play a custom game, which wouldn't be a normal public match, since that combination of settings aren't available in a public match.
              • Oic. Figures. Thanks for the info :D

                Maybe I'm just too use to Q3/QL (and general Quake Series) TDM settings where FF is a thing that matters and doesn't get you auto-kicked.

        • by Frigga's Ring ( 1044024 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:27AM (#45070631)

          of course in GTA if you kill a civilian then you get his money and his car, although that's not a war crime so much as a regular crime.

          And a wanted level. In GTA V, I believe murder gives you a two star wanted level which means the police come after you with force and will open fire to stop you. You could argue that evading the cops and getting them to forget about you is difficult, but having a crime witnessed in the GTA games does come with a consequence.

          • And in GTAV when they force you to torture someone, the torturer (who is a fucked up sociopath) drives the victim to the airport and tells him along the way that torture is useless as an interrogation tool and the victim is going to escape the US and tell everyone about what happened.

            • by Frigga's Ring ( 1044024 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:32PM (#45071557)
              **GTA V SPOILERS**

              I don't want to get too deep into spoiler territory, but the person who orders the torture works for a parody of the real life US Government Agency that uses torture (or "used" torture, I suppose these days it's just "enhanced interrogation techniques"). I haven't gotten much further in the story than that scene, but I assume that the people who order the torture get what's coming to them. But regarding the Trevor driving the victim to the airport while talking about how torture is a useless interrogation tool, Trevor mentions he that did that because he was instructed to kill the victim and refused to be their hired gun. (I believe the government guys who ordered the torture threatened the main characters if they *didn't* torture the victim)

              We could have a discussion on that scene and its effects on the player, but I doubt many people played through that scene and felt good about what they were forced to do. Assuming that's true, I think the game just had a more powerful effect on behavior than any Red Cross warning could.
        • in assassin's creed if you kill 3 civilians then the level ends.

          Remember Time Crisis? I think it only took 2 civilian deaths before you had to pump in another handful of quarters.

        • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

          COD ends your mission as soon as a civ is killed. so their complaints are based on games from the early 90's as most every game I have played causes you pain if you start a murder spree.

          Are they outraged about Postal 1 and 2? or redneck rampage? because those are the only things I can see fit their complaint.

        • They could remedy that in GTA by introducing a permanent wanted level system. Each time you commit a crime that has a witness, it raises your permanent wanted level. It could get to the point where a cop starts chasing you as soon as he sees you, even calling in backup, or having cops waiting outside your house when you leave. Getting caught with a high enough wanted level would forfeit all of your money and maybe a house or two, or whatever cars you have in garages. It would make it more realistic, but

    • by TWiTfan ( 2887093 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:11AM (#45070381)

      If they wanted to make it realistic, they should just have the UN pass an unenforceable resolution against you and have the International Court of Justice send you a very nasty letter once a year.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If they wanted to make it realistic, they should just have the UN pass an unenforceable resolution against you and have the International Court of Justice send you a very nasty letter once a year.

        The cool thing about this is that if you play on the US team and they actually *do* try something, a new scenario called Invade the Hague [] is unlocked, in which righteous US commandos get to kill everything they see to bring our boys home. ;)

      • Lol no kidding. Or in the case of killing first responders with drone strikes like the US, everyone can just look the other way. You think the Red Cross would be more interested in that, given that they are first responders, but no, video games. Must interfere with video games.

      • Well, the games are silly already. Ask a real veteran how many people they killed, and the answers will usually be "0", "1", "just a couple", things like that, only rarely getting into double digits. Now ask how many people were killed in a video game and the stats may show 500 or more (even if it's not a war game).

        A real war isn't about killing every last enemy you see. Instead you block the roads, halt their advance, force them to retreat, get them bogged down, etc. But in a game the standard play sty

    • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:35PM (#45071589)

      That was my experience with the America's Army game. My first game I was nervous and a little trigger happy and shot my teammates when they rounded a corner. I got shipped off to Ft. Leavenworth and decided I didn't like that game so much.

    • I have yet to see any sign of the Red Cross in any online game. They should stop whining, get off their butts and help the poor and wasted I leave in my wake.

      It's almost as if the Red Cross has no Playstations or XBoxes!

      No sign of MSF, either. Think of how helpful they could be in TF2.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Most of the real-life, actual war crimes are committed by people who never play these computer games. (More likely, ever play any computer game.)

      Can't you just see the terrorists in Nigeria, Mali, Sudan, Afghanistan, etc., hauling their laptops around with them so that they can play computer games and commit "virtual war crimes" once the real battles are over?

      On the flip side, how many gamers that commit "virtual war crimes" actually commit real-life war crimes? This is a "solution" without a problem. Mo

  • That's the only place I can drive at 230km/h, slaughter monsters 10x my size, and that I can be 190 cm instead of 165 in real-life....etc. BTW, XBox PS3 and other consoles aren't that popular in Sierra Leon, Libya and such....
  • by ClassicASP ( 1791116 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:54AM (#45070121)
    It would ruin Grand Theft Auto, but for games that we're using to train soldiers, I'd definitely support this.
    • by schneidafunk ( 795759 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:00AM (#45070231)

      FTA - "Does this also apply to more fantasy oriented war games?

      No, the ICRC is talking about video games that simulate real-war situations. It is not suggesting that this apply to games that portray more fictional scenarios such as medieval fantasy or futuristic wars in outer space. "

    • There are consequences in GTA - if you kill enough cops they send you a free helicopter as a prize.
  • Don't want this in Mario or Borderlands but I'm sure it's already in America's Army.
    • More importantly, I don't recall a single time I've seen during normal gameplay any serious war crime committed by the player. We do see torture (BLOPS2) in a context I'm actually okay with seeing (no-mans land + outside the law agents). Civilians aren't featured that much on CoDs series (no, No Russian does not count as you are an undercover agent that should, in fact, shoot the civilians to keep your cover. Well, "cover") and of all those times I can only remember them in places they can easily be caught

  • If I wanted a game that I had to do a 9-5 and be scolded by my boss when I was mouthy to a customer I'd just go to work.

    Part of the reason we play games is because we can do unrealistic things. Sure, run around town, shoot up the place and drive off in a car you;d never be able to steal, let alone afford.

    Perhaps what they should concentrate on is educating children and young adults about real life consequences and how video games differ from real life.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Warcrimes Tribunal

    Experience the thrilling recreations of standing in front of a judge.
    • Experience the thrilling recreations of standing in front of a judge.

      Press X to flip him the bird.

  • Earn a bunch of money in a completely ethical way, as you make sure to not cook the books when your boss asks you do. Do trivial sums, and make sure the black outweighs the red, in the most action-unpacked simulator of the year.

    Escapism is bad, and we should get as much boring reality into our games as possible. No more unrealistic lack of consequences from violence.

    Play the new military shooter, where you patrol the same ground for 3 weeks straight, and nothing happens until several of your friends are i

  • Rule #2 (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Also, all games should respect all laws of physics, including gravity. Even if a game is focused on, say, Superman, we can't trust people to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, so no flying or bending steel bars w/ bare hands anymore. K?

  • by schneidafunk ( 795759 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:59AM (#45070211)

    "the ICRC is not interested in all video games – only in those simulating real-life armed conflict. Some of these games are being designed and produced by the same companies developing simulated battlefields for the training of armed forces where the law of armed conflict are a necessary ingredient."

    They actually make some valid points and they aren't too preachy. They want realistic war games to be more realistic.

    • For once I actually heard/read this story before it showed up on Slashdot, and some of the reactions in the comments... well, they're fairly well expected. I doubt anyone would try Mario in a criminal court of stomping on Goombas, and they don't want you to receive a dishonorable discharge in halo for tea-bagging. They're more focused on games about modern warfare (including but not limited to Modern Warfare.)
    • You can play "Americas army" if you want that. Of course that's a choice.
    • by brit74 ( 831798 )

      They want realistic war games to be more realistic.

      No, they want to teach "rules of war" and they think that violent videogames promote real-world violence. It isn't about "being realistic". Game developers leave out a *ton* of stuff from wargames - your character doesn't need to pee, eat regular meals, clean his gun or restock rounds, clean toilets, put up with the bureaucracy of a military establishment, or boredom of nothing happening for days on end. Having consequences for bad behavior is another one of those (many) "not fun" things that gets left ou

  • This is very well intentioned to be sure, but I don't see how it would work. In the real world, most people are literally and metaphorically able to get away with murder on the battlefield; the only time they aren't is when they are captured by an opposing force. Is the Red Cross suggesting that if the game AI senses that you have committed gross acts of violence that it should cause the enemy force to overwhelm you as "punishment"? Or that an international tribunal should materialize on the spot to try y
  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:06AM (#45070317) Homepage

    I like game mechanics and games that try to do things and model consequences. Fallout, fable, these games have presented consequences. Kill a named character and they are gone. Kill and rampage, or even steal, and it has consequences for how people interact with you and what is available to you.

    However, so far, these mechanics all are a bit simplistic and buggy. If I am careful to steal only when nobody else is around, I am still known as a thief, if I kill when there are no witnesses, I am still known as the murderer. Hell.... in New Vegas, I can dress up as a faction, use that to slip past people or get into situations but... anything I do is still on me, even though I am in disguise.

    In terms of real possibility, with cameras and "soldier of the future" programs, the idea of every soldier having video that can be reviewed later almost makes the mechanics of something like this less of a diversion from reality than many of the other attempts at it.... except... anyone who thinks the reality is ever going to be "the film is reviewed and people are charged with crimes", that is totally far fetched and is never going to happen, video will be reviewed for effectiveness and intel only, ever in a real military....and even blatant crimes will be buried in mountains of data.

    So I don't see why they want a game to give people unrealistic expectations.

    • by afxgrin ( 208686 )

      What's even more fucked up is that to make this realistic we need models of babies, children, disabled, sick and elderly in game. Then add weapons like napalm and sarin gas.

      Like sure I'd love to design a great asymmetric warfare scenario that punishes the player for deliberately murdering non-combatants however I'm also introducing the means to allow someone to carry out fantasies of murdering non-combatants. It's just a matter of modding the code a bit and it could be a realistic game called War Criminal

    • by Prune ( 557140 )
      In the modern surveillance state, reality may end up reflecting what you describe in your second paragraph.
  • a few features that could be fun

    1 have a number of noncombatants that you get "points" for keeping alive

    2 lose "points" for excessive property damage

    3 have a meter with "good will" that can get you allies/help

    4 have your supply officer gripe about your ammo use (and or be happy about how much ammo you captured)

    • by Prune ( 557140 )
      Mod parent up for ideas that aren't vague or hand-waiving like most of the other comments here.
  • by MRe_nl ( 306212 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:09AM (#45070363)

    "The ICRC believes there is a place for international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) in video games". Because it's just too hard to apply these rules in reality. Unless you're the disarmed loser of a conflict.
    When is the last time any member-state of the permanent security council was tried for war-crimes? So in the game Russian, Chinese, American, British and French players should get a free pass, but all others will get their asses kicked in a court of law.
    That is if they manage to survive the kidnapping, torture and assassination.

  • Missing the point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:09AM (#45070369)

    I think some of you are missing the point: what the Red Cross is worried about is that if you've spent all day shooting villagers in Black Ops 2, and this is your only view of what warfare is like, then when you see things like the Collateral Murder video you are much more likely to shrug and go "What's the big deal? The president says it's ok to do this, so it must be ok.".

    If you consider yourself to be too informed for that to work on you, think of how informed the average person you know is, and then reflect on the fact that half of them are less informed than that. And that half is absolutely convinced that they are right about all things. Since a (large) portion of the other half is apathetic or cynical, at least 75% of the population is just fine with the status quo no matter how many war crimes the US commits (provided the war crimes are committed against someone else).

    Thus, certain video games end up unintentionally acting as a very good propaganda tool in support of war crimes.

    I think that is an actual problem, and is something that the Red Cross is absolutely right to worry about. I don't think that there's a good general way around this (and censoring games is the opposite of a good way to do anything), but I absolutely think that a better implementation of RoE belongs in America's Army. This is a discussion we should be having.

    • Well you'd have to start by having the game play heavily edited [] for political smear purposes if you want it to resemble the collateral murder video. After having your game play taken out of context and having your name smeared on the international news than you'd get to spend the rest of your life defending yourself from people who thought you slaughtered innocent civilians. You do want your game play resembling reality, right?

  • which a raid is only complete when the Guild Leader sends an apology note to the instance's main boss for their unannounced intrusion of his secret lair, their slaughter of his guards, and a compensatory money-order for the treasure they looted.. /facepalm.

  • First they're blaming crime on video games. Now they're blaming war crimes? They can't be serious. I'm glad that my experience with real world war and war crimes is zero. I'm not relying on a video game to be realistic, hell they won't even show civilians in the war zones.

    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

      First they're blaming crime on video games. Now they're blaming war crimes?

      RTFA. No, they did not do those things. In fact, they specifically state the opposite!

      However the ICRC is not involved in the debate about the level of violence in video games.

  • "Remember kids, it's fine to massacre people, but you gotta use the right weapons! If you don't, Obama might threaten 'narrow, punitive action.'"
  • ... no more taking off and nuking the site from orbit? Too many civilian casualties.

  • by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:36AM (#45070777)

    Game scenarios should not reward players for actions that in real life would be considered war crimes.

    So if you are playing as Russia, you should turn the capital into the most destroyed city on earth [] and kill tens of thousands of civilians and a few ICRC members too []. And the accurate-to-real-life consequences of that is that the Chechens laid down their arms and we haven't heard peep from them about independence for a while. Oh, and the political status of the leaders in charge was buoyed by the success, which was seen as redeeming Russia after the loss of status during the dissolution of the USSR.

    And before anyone someone jumps on the idea that criticizing Russian conduct in the war is an endorsement of the rebels, they were also guilty of many crimes. This isn't about taking sides, it's about how in real life there are plenty of instances where committing war crimes leads to very positive tactical and strategic advances. I could say it would be nice for cosmic justice to ensure that the guilty never profit from their crimes, but so far that ain't how it is.

  • Given influence possessed by the ICRC, I find it hard to get worked up about them making requests that, while controversial, are optional and in line with the sort of thing they would care about.

    As for whether acceding to their requests is a good idea, I think that that's a matter of genre, or sub-genre. There's plenty of room for games where ICRC-respected rules are irrelevant to, or would be actively detrimental to, gameplay. Are voracious space bugs parties to the geneva convention? O
  • "Gamers should be rewarded for respecting the law of armed conflict and there should be virtual penalties for serious violations of the law of armed conflict"

    So, let me get this straight, they want to get rid of realism in games, completly?

  • To ever realistically show any past, current, or future war.

  • Is it even possible to commit war crimes against zombies? I mean, they'll just climb out of those mass graves, right? Should Kratos from God of War offered surrender terms to that Krakken before or after it swallowed him?

    But I see their point, I always thought that Captain Olimar should be tried for enslaving the local natives into helping repair his ship. And while it's possible to genocide species on Nethack, I always found that vaguely disturbing. Then again, being evil is more of a gameplay mechanic wi

  • Gameplay is fantasy. Plenty of mentally healthy people can play a shoot-em-game and walk away hours later with a civilized outlook on mortality and how it relates to an armed conflict. Maybe the Red Cross could instead be focusing on creating IRL programs for people who do not have such a mentally healthy outlook on life? Perhaps it would be rehabilitative enough that these afflicted people could one day enjoy the same fantasy games without blurring the lines between reality, emotion and responsible/civili

  • Seems like a good idea, until you take into account the fact that the most likely people to commit war crimes probably don't play video games.

    Then again, what do I know? Assad, Bush, Kony, and Obama could very well be PSN buddies.

  • "Gamers should be rewarded for respecting the law of armed conflict and there should be virtual penalties for serious violations of the law of armed conflict"

    So basically, we will not get to play as the Americans anymore.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein