Thursday, October 03, 2013

ICRC Wants To Punish Gamers For Digital War Crimes

Even the most "realistic" war games are pretty
far-fetched in terms of what actually happens on the
battlefield. And, shock, most gamers know that.

This is one of those news stories where I think it would be best if you read the article first and then we’ll go from there. The jist of it is the ICRC, that is the International Committee of the Red Cross, wants to punish gamers for war crimes in virtual worlds.

Read the article, let it sink in for a moment, and come back. I’m sure we’re all feeling the same thing.

.
..

Did you read it?

Great. Let’s all make the O_O WTF face together now.

What the ICRC is claiming is that video games trivialize the reality of war, and that people will become indifferent to these acts over time, to the point that the behavior will be perceived as acceptable. I’m not entirely sure what video games glorify war crimes, but okay. To top it off, the spokesperson for the ICRC, Bernard Barrett, said they are not trying to censor games or spoil fun. Instead, they want to make it clear that there are rules of combat and gamers should be punished if they kill prisoners or shoot ambulances in the games themselves.

"We're not asking for censorship, we don't want to take any elements out of the games [.] We're not trying to make games boring or preachy, but we’re hoping that the ones that offer a realistic portrayal of a modern battlefield can incorporate some sort of reward or penalties depending on whether they follow the basic rules of armed conflict.”

Now from a gaming perspective dealing with modern war, I could see how adding in a system of checks and balances to ensure gamers are getting penalized for harming civilians can greatly improve the reality of a game. At the same time, it’s a game. It’s not real. It’s not meant to be real. There’s a reason why Call of Duty and Battlefield are NOT combat simulations used by the military. In fact, most governments that can afford the equipment have developed their own simulators that, *gasp* actually take into account civilian causalities and how to handle prisoners of war. 

There has also been no clear link made between games causing a change in a person’s behavior. Even with people calling for new studies, more are coming out every month showing the exact opposite of what people have been told: people are not becoming violent psychopaths because of games. 

I think what really annoys me the most is that they are singling out video games. What about books? Or paintings? Or television? Or movies? Those mediums of entertainment depict war crimes realistically and their creators are never punished. So what about the people who spend their weekends reenacting the Civil War? Or the books that dive into very gritty details about the Holocaust? Shouldn’t they be equally as subjected to repercussions as gamers would?

While they may have had good intent, the ICRC is coming about this at the wrong angle. And throwing out thee “but we don’t want to censor anything” argument is not helping their case at all. If they could approach this from a different perspective they would have a better outlet for their concerns. If they team up with developers to help create games about the current conflicts in the world and the importance of aid, that would be a better start. Under this premise of punishing gamers for doing something that happens in a virtual world of non-existent conditions will not win them the audience they were hoping for.

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