You’re a War Criminal

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You're a War Criminal

You've probably committed virtual war crimes without ever knowing it.

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Modern Warfare became after the first installment, cartoonishly psyschotic. I think the RedCross has raised a valid concern.

Oh I knew it when I committed those virtual war crimes - FarCry 2 doesn't have it any other way. Its just that no one cared, because it was Africa (tell me I'm wrong. Controversy surrounding FC2? None. Controversy as soon as you kill white civilains ala MW2? Rather more). Which was one of the things that annoyed me about FC2 - the PC is explicitly doing things like destroying vital drugs stock piles, cutting off water supplies to other countries and so on but always has to help the civilians who supply the anti-malarial drugs to the PC. What makes them so special? Because you can see thier faces?

There are also examples of games where commiting war crimes will screw you over. The SWAT series comes to mind as well as Rainbow 6: Raven Shield which both have an area between "threat" and "dead" for thier enemies. In fact, in SWAT 4 killing anyone at all negativly affects your score.

This is a good article and it's an interesting concept.

I don't play a lot of war games or shooters, so I can't comment on most games sited as examples, but I'd like to bring up something.

At least one game mentioned in this article, Metal Gear Solid 4, rewards the player for showing mercy. Generally, you get a better rating and rewards for using tranquilizers and stealth, than with all out bloodlusty-warfare.

Steve Watts:
You're a War Criminal

You've probably committed virtual war crimes without ever knowing it.

Read Full Article

They're raising a good concern, and doing it in a good way. It's not accusing people of being awful human beings, but simply saying, "Hey, has anyone mentioned this issue to you?"

I think a good way to work something like this in would similar to what your classic arcade shooters do -- give a bonus if someone avoids bystander casualties or friendly fire. Put in a few key turning points in which, if a player chooses the humanitarian road (perhaps without being coached too specifically), they are given some benefit later in the game.

There's also an often-overlooked dramatic possibility here: let the enemy occasionally do the humanitarian thing. Maybe the enemy medic provides some medical attention, for instance. This can open the game up to exploring the grey areas of the usual 'Us (good) vs. Them (evil)' dichotomy.

Exploring these ideas can make for good PR, but it can also allow games to make combat deeper and give it new and different meanings. It's an excellent way to include story and character development without resorting to cutscenes and action-stopping dialogue. Rather than viewing the Red Cross's complaint as an indictment of gaming (and thus gamers), we can see it as I feel they meant it -- an opportunity to think differently and seize opportunities for better experiences.

Steve Watts:
You're a War Criminal

You've probably committed virtual war crimes without ever knowing it.

Read Full Article

Quite a good article and it actually made me think about some of the things that you dont really notice in games, for one i didn't know its illegal to fight in a church. Though when you mentioned the modern warfare mission with the AC130 you forgot that in the preceding mission there are enemies in a church you have to kill (same situation in the 'all ghillied up' mission.

Also you mentioned flamethrowers in world at war; as they were used in ww2 you would expect them in a game set then. Though if it was made illegal in 1907 does that mean the US (and others) were committing war crimes on a grand scale?

Karma168:

Also you mentioned flamethrowers in world at war; as they were used in ww2 you would expect them in a game set then. Though if it was made illegal in 1907 does that mean the US (and others) were committing war crimes on a grand scale?

That would be far from the biggest or worst war crime engaged in by the Allies in World War II.

For instance, the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas (which, FYI, the British were the first to engage in, not the Germans) was carried out on German and Japanese cities, well knowing that it violated international law.

This was a brilliant article, and I love to see games take on more of this. Maybe even not in a reward/punishment way because a player whose punished for shooting civilains will just hate the civilians more.

But a surrender mechanic, or an injured mechanic. Depended on the situation seeing the medics on your side move forward and start tending to your own and the enemies fallen troops would be a good way of conveying 'this area is secure and safe, well done' as well as making everything feel more real and human.

And then you can do cool stuff messing with that. When the medics rush in and start doing medic stuff, a counter-attack would come in. You'd hate the enemy and there would be a shock as the situation changes from what you'd felt was secure.

But there are problems with it. If the enemy can surrender and you can look after the injured fallen it will begin to personify them and make the player feel guilty for playing. I've become more sensitive to this stuff over time and on the one hand it gives me great joy with a game like Deus Ex: HR where I can deliberately not kill anyone and even gives incentive for me to take higher risk gameplay mechanics and explore more of the game, but with a game like Uncharted it led to me beginning to dislike myself for doing it. I'm sure I wasn't the only one at the end of Uncharted 2 who felt a pang of guilt when the villain asked how many people I'd killed that day.

Apart from anything else though, this is all good because it begins to treat games as experiences than self-contained parts. Shadow of the Colossus new what it was doing. KotoR 2 deliberately de-personified the enemies so the end reveal would give you a bit of a stab.

It all raises the standards of games

In the defense of Resistance: Fall of Man, I don't think anyone is eager to protect the cultural heritage of Manchester Cathedral at the cost of their own lives. It's a crazy alien race gunning for you, you fight where you have to. I don't think human rights laws apply to the Chimera.

Dastardly:

They're raising a good concern, and doing it in a good way. It's not accusing people of being awful human beings, but simply saying, "Hey, has anyone mentioned this issue to you?"

Why, yes they have, Mr. Red Cross. I'm quite cognisant of these issues around the world. But I'm currently in a state of not giving a fuck because I'M PLAYING VIDEO GAMES.

If I want to have fun, I'll play video games. If I want to deal with harsh realities in far off lands I'll donate to some fund. Unless you can make IHL fun, stay away from my games and leave me alone.

Micalas:

Why, yes they have, Mr. Red Cross. I'm quite cognisant of these issues around the world. But I'm currently in a state of not giving a fuck because I'M PLAYING VIDEO GAMES.

If I want to have fun, I'll play video games. If I want to deal with harsh realities in far off lands I'll donate to some fund. Unless you can make IHL fun, stay away from my games and leave me alone.

An example of the overly-defensive reaction that only serves to make gamers continue to look like the bad guy. When asked to consider something, as a possible issue in the overall context of modern gaming, we give in to the temptation to immediately treat it as a threat to our own individual status quo.

I don't think anyone is suggesting the 'arcadey' shooter go away. It would be nice, however, to see a few games force you to do something other than 'kill everything that moves'.

**Scenario: Bad guys rush into a house and start shooting at your boys. You can order the structure be breached (and risk losing a few people) or just have your M249 gunner layeth the smacketh downeth.

Unbeknownst to you, ordering him to do so will kill everyone inside...including the civilian family who just had their house occupied by the bad guys.**

I don't need a game that 'punishes' me, per se, on wrong actions; but maybe makes me think a little before pulling the trigger. That's all.

Dastardly:

Micalas:

Why, yes they have, Mr. Red Cross. I'm quite cognisant of these issues around the world. But I'm currently in a state of not giving a fuck because I'M PLAYING VIDEO GAMES.

If I want to have fun, I'll play video games. If I want to deal with harsh realities in far off lands I'll donate to some fund. Unless you can make IHL fun, stay away from my games and leave me alone.

An example of the overly-defensive reaction that only serves to make gamers continue to look like the bad guy. When asked to consider something, as a possible issue in the overall context of modern gaming, we give in to the temptation to immediately treat it as a threat to our own individual status quo.

I'm not being over defensive. In fact I wrote this with a ZP like tone in mind. I wasn't one of the people who flew off the deep end in original thread. In fact, I didn't even make a post in that thread.

A more serious response:

My point is, unless you can make all of these real world issues fun, I don't want them in my games. I'm not oppossed to the idea, just don't make it a chore. IHL just aren't something I can see being implemented in a way that's fun. The fact that everything you do in GTA and SR is illegal and causes the cops to chase you is an example common law being implemented in a fun way. The only reason that it's fun though is because you can mow down the entire police force after you ramp your car off the mayor's house. If after breaking a law, GTA forced you to hire a lawyer and fight your case in court I would fire the game into the sun.

The above example can't really work with IHL. If you steal a piece of another country's artwork during a war you can't respond by gunning down your pursuers. You may be able to kill a few but if you survive too long the government will send a strike force and/or carpet bomb the place you're hiding. So that leaves us with one logical path. You get sent to The Hague. Not really a 10 on the fun scale. I'm a huge fan of RPGs, table top included and moral choices are something I enjoy. Just make them fun! My biggest concern is that when I think of fun, I don't dial call up the Red Cross

I think 'punishment' for a GC violation can be made 'fun', or -at least- not necessitate a 'hard stop' like a Game Over screen.

I like how SWAT did it; you go and have your fun, but your score/standing is impacted based on the amount of violations. Or (in a long shot) you are asked to justify certain actions at the end of your campaign.

You have your fun, we naval gazers can continue to naval gaze. Everyone wins.

Micalas:
snip

Here's the thing - your concept of 'fun' may not be universally accepted, y'know?

The article raised issues which, if properly implemented in games, might bring some depth/twist to a stale genre. I, personally, think that can be fun.

Peace out.

Raiyan 1.0:

Micalas:
snip

Here's the thing - your concept of 'fun' may not be universally accepted, y'know?

The article raised issues which, if properly implemented in games, might bring some depth/twist to a stale genre. I, personally, think that can be fun.

Peace out.

I suppose that's true. There are people who genuinely enjoy killing real people and cannibalizing their bodies. I don't understand them, but to each their own.

Seriously though, I know that the concept of fun is subjective but there are things that I can say with certainty aren't fun for the majority of people. Things like going to traffic court or sitting in line at DMV. There may be people who revel in it and you're well within your right to tell me that I'm wrong when I call those people joyless asshats but that still doesn't make going to traffic court fun.

great little article, definately something worth taking into account.

it's basically a real world sinareo which would fit very well into any game looking to include a "moral choice" system, breaking the IHL may make things easy in the immidiate moment, but risks dire consiquences futher down the line.

War crimes? LOL alls fair in love and war, besides when you're in a war you tend to be too busy to care about silly laws. I think the best example of me not caring about these war "crimes" was in an RTS whose name I forget that had wounded soldiers and medivac helicoptors. I wounded a guy and waited for the helicoptor to come so I could blow them both up instead of just killing the one guy. It was advantageous because the enemy had to spend resources making the helicoptor so I did reduce his capacity to wage war.

If anyone wants to quote me remember I don't believe in war crimes.

Interesting I guess.

Then again who gives a damn?
I despised games that try and force realism like this on me, and would hate it if more games had to turn to that.

Cant recall it, but an old Swat game I played kept pissing me off when I got yelled at for shooting bad guys....I was supposed to yell at them first or something.

tmande2nd:
Interesting I guess.

Then again who gives a damn?
I despised games that try and force realism like this on me, and would hate it if more games had to turn to that.

Cant recall it, but an old Swat game I played kept pissing me off when I got yelled at for shooting bad guys....I was supposed to yell at them first or something.

I'm curious: why would a 'police simulator' annoy you if it asks you to employ police tactics? I'm not trying to be a troll, just trying to understand what you thought you were signing up for?

'Realism' has its limits, sure, but when it fits with the game mechanics, does it not enhance the experience? A shooting gallery is fine and has its place (and, I'm sure, is not going away) but is not the point of a 'game' to challenge its players?

I'd say, I've pretty much mastered the 'shoot everything' challenge, I'm ready and eager for the 'shoot some things but only if they meet certain conditions' challenge.

Micalas:

Raiyan 1.0:

Micalas:
snip

Here's the thing - your concept of 'fun' may not be universally accepted, y'know?

The article raised issues which, if properly implemented in games, might bring some depth/twist to a stale genre. I, personally, think that can be fun.

Peace out.

I suppose that's true. There are people who genuinely enjoy killing real people and cannibalizing their bodies. I don't understand them, but to each their own.

Seriously though, I know that the concept of fun is subjective but there are things that I can say with certainty aren't fun for the majority of people. Things like going to traffic court or sitting in line at DMV. There may be people who revel in it and you're well within your right to tell me that I'm wrong when I call those people joyless asshats but that still doesn't make going to traffic court fun.

So you never played SWAT, where the gameplay mechanics coerce people to carry out missions with minimal collateral, or ever heard of people who have been screaming about the fact that you can't take out the bosses non-lethally in DX:HR.

I'm talking about these kind of approaches to gameplay, which can potentially bring new mechanical and narrative twists to the shooter genre. Having consequences for my actions, instead of traversing through war-torn cities that spookily have no civilians.

How about a CoD game which doesn't end with a scripted sequence, but rather you potentially being in court for any war crimes you committed throughout the SP missions? That doesn't take away any of your shooting-men-in-the-face fun, surely?

And if you think being tried in a court for crimes against humanity can't be interesting, you, kind sir, have not played Murder Dog.

Raiyan 1.0:

Micalas:

Raiyan 1.0:

Here's the thing - your concept of 'fun' may not be universally accepted, y'know?

The article raised issues which, if properly implemented in games, might bring some depth/twist to a stale genre. I, personally, think that can be fun.

Peace out.

I suppose that's true. There are people who genuinely enjoy killing real people and cannibalizing their bodies. I don't understand them, but to each their own.

Seriously though, I know that the concept of fun is subjective but there are things that I can say with certainty aren't fun for the majority of people. Things like going to traffic court or sitting in line at DMV. There may be people who revel in it and you're well within your right to tell me that I'm wrong when I call those people joyless asshats but that still doesn't make going to traffic court fun.

So you never played SWAT, where the gameplay mechanics coerce people to carry out missions with minimal collateral, or ever heard of people who have been screaming about the fact that you can't take out the bosses non-lethally in DX:HR.

I'm talking about these kind of approaches to gameplay, which can potentially bring new mechanical and narrative twists to the shooter genre. Having consequences for my actions, instead of traversing through war-torn cities that spookily have no civilians.

How about a CoD game which doesn't end with a scripted sequence, but rather you potentially being in court for any war crimes you committed throughout the SP missions? That doesn't take away any of your shooting-men-in-the-face fun, surely?

And if you think being tried in a court for crimes against humanity can't be interesting, you, kind sir, have not played Murder Dog.

No, I haven't played SWAT. I have played Deus EX: HR and I have done a no-kill run. It's unfortunate that I couldn't do anything but shot at them, but really on because I hadn't suck points into very much combat related stuff. In fact, the only reason I was able to kill that one boss male boss that goes invisible is by throwing a hacked gun turret into the room before I triggered the cutscene.

I'm ok with new mechanics and approaches to gameplay, I just don't want it to get in the way like in the examples I gave. Things like this are ok as a challange. In fact that's the only reason anyone really does no kill runs in Deus Ex. There's no real benefit beyond the challenge. THAT made it fun. But when a dusty civilian in a dusty wartorn hellhole game overs my ass because he got in my way, I think I'm within my rights to get pissed.

The only way I could see a COD courtroom functioning is a BioWare style verbal puzzle that you need to navigate to explain your innocence. It could be potentially fun to talk your way out of a colossal fuck-up. Unfortunately, something that would become increasingly hard to believe if in the last mission your grenades took out twelve Boy Scout camps.

I'll check it out. I suppose an addendum to my opinion is that there's nothing wrong with a game like that it's just that I don't want such a jarring shift of gameplay. If I pick up an FPS I'd prefer it didn't turn into Phoenix Wright three missions in.

Truly-A-Lie:
In the defense of Resistance: Fall of Man, I don't think anyone is eager to protect the cultural heritage of Manchester Cathedral at the cost of their own lives. It's a crazy alien race gunning for you, you fight where you have to. I don't think human rights laws apply to the Chimera.

This. While talking about war crimes when it's Humans vs Humans fighting (like Battlefield or Modern Warfare) is one thing, it's a whole other thing when it comes to Humans vs Aliens. Do you really expect the aliens to suddenly adhere to our ways of war crime prevention when they invade us? Do you even think they'd be able to if they were a hivemind-like race ala Zerg or Tyranids or similar? I don't think so. They'd no doubt do everything that was considered a war crime to us without even thinking twice.

The exception to that would be "civilized" aliens like those in Mass Effect, since they pretty much follow law and order much like we do. That would make sense (well, maybe not things like the Reapers). But when it comes to those who would invade and slaughter without a second thought, like the Chimera or similar, if they aren't willing to adhere to such laws, then we should repay it in kind.

Viper114:

Truly-A-Lie:
In the defense of Resistance: Fall of Man, I don't think anyone is eager to protect the cultural heritage of Manchester Cathedral at the cost of their own lives. It's a crazy alien race gunning for you, you fight where you have to. I don't think human rights laws apply to the Chimera.

This. While talking about war crimes when it's Humans vs Humans fighting (like Battlefield or Modern Warfare) is one thing, it's a whole other thing when it comes to Humans vs Aliens. Do you really expect the aliens to suddenly adhere to our ways of war crime prevention when they invade us? Do you even think they'd be able to if they were a hivemind-like race ala Zerg or Tyranids or similar? I don't think so. They'd no doubt do everything that was considered a war crime to us without even thinking twice.

The exception to that would be "civilized" aliens like those in Mass Effect, since they pretty much follow law and order much like we do. That would make sense (well, maybe not things like the Reapers). But when it comes to those who would invade and slaughter without a second thought, like the Chimera or similar, if they aren't willing to adhere to such laws, then we should repay it in kind.

And be no better than them?
If we do as they do then we will be no better than the beasts/monsters we fight.

Micalas:

I'll check it out. I suppose an addendum to my opinion is that there's nothing wrong with a game like that it's just that I don't want such a jarring shift of gameplay. If I pick up an FPS I'd prefer it didn't turn into Phoenix Wright three missions in.

I guess we can end this conversation by agreeing that this kind of mechanism can only be worthy if it adds a layer of challenge or blends well with the gameplay elements.

(I got my CoD idea from the bit in Chrono Trigger where the game judges you for stealing stuff from people's house - which was an established RPG trope. I always found things that challenge people's expectations to be fun.)

And check out Murder Dog - it's free and fun/horrifying/definitely something.

Xaryn Mar:

Viper114:

Truly-A-Lie:
In the defense of Resistance: Fall of Man, I don't think anyone is eager to protect the cultural heritage of Manchester Cathedral at the cost of their own lives. It's a crazy alien race gunning for you, you fight where you have to. I don't think human rights laws apply to the Chimera.

This. While talking about war crimes when it's Humans vs Humans fighting (like Battlefield or Modern Warfare) is one thing, it's a whole other thing when it comes to Humans vs Aliens. Do you really expect the aliens to suddenly adhere to our ways of war crime prevention when they invade us? Do you even think they'd be able to if they were a hivemind-like race ala Zerg or Tyranids or similar? I don't think so. They'd no doubt do everything that was considered a war crime to us without even thinking twice.

The exception to that would be "civilized" aliens like those in Mass Effect, since they pretty much follow law and order much like we do. That would make sense (well, maybe not things like the Reapers). But when it comes to those who would invade and slaughter without a second thought, like the Chimera or similar, if they aren't willing to adhere to such laws, then we should repay it in kind.

And be no better than them?
If we do as they do then we will be no better than the beasts/monsters we fight.

Being 'better' than the Chimera is like being 'better' than a rabid dog, or a Great White shark. They won't care or be impressed, they're just going to keep doing what they do.

Ever take a can of Raid to some ants that found their way into your house? Same concept.

Fact is: given the choice between morality and survival, survival always takes precedence.

Raiyan 1.0:

Micalas:

I'll check it out. I suppose an addendum to my opinion is that there's nothing wrong with a game like that it's just that I don't want such a jarring shift of gameplay. If I pick up an FPS I'd prefer it didn't turn into Phoenix Wright three missions in.

I guess we can end this conversation by agreeing that this kind of mechanism can only be worthy if it adds a layer of challenge or blends well with the gameplay elements.

(I got my CoD idea from the bit in Chrono Trigger where the game judges you for stealing stuff from people's house - which was an established RPG trope. I always found things that challenge people's expectations to be fun.)

And check out Murder Dog - it's free and fun/horrifying/definitely something.

Well that was a nice little conversation. I'm much more used to it all going to shit on the internet.

I've heard people talk up that bit in Chrono Trigger. I never played it because I was like 5 and only had the standard Nintendo properties to play.

Will do, thanks!

Jumwa:
the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas (which, FYI, the British were the first to engage in, not the Germans)

Got a source? As far as I can tell, both powers shifted from precision bombing of legitimate targets to area bombing of cities gradually during 1940-41 for reasons of practicality, so it's very difficult to say who did it first.

But the Nazis had been doing it before WW2 even started.

image

OT: The number one war crime is to initiate an unprovoked war. "To initiate a war of aggression... is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." - Nuremberg judge. I like the way the Europa Universalis games penalise you for starting a war without a legal justification; like in real life, it forces you to use diplomacy to fabricate a justification.

Also I'd like to see a game like SWAT4 recreate the siege of the Branch Davidians at Waco. But for realism, you'd be able to burn everyone alive and still get a perfect 100% score.

Karma168:

Steve Watts:
You're a War Criminal

You've probably committed virtual war crimes without ever knowing it.

Read Full Article

Quite a good article and it actually made me think about some of the things that you dont really notice in games, for one i didn't know its illegal to fight in a church. Though when you mentioned the modern warfare mission with the AC130 you forgot that in the preceding mission there are enemies in a church you have to kill (same situation in the 'all ghillied up' mission.

Also you mentioned flamethrowers in world at war; as they were used in ww2 you would expect them in a game set then. Though if it was made illegal in 1907 does that mean the US (and others) were committing war crimes on a grand scale?

The point about flamethrowers you made is valid and would have prompted me to point it out if you had not.

When total war breaks out, "rules" tend to get tossed out the window. The Geneva Convention among so many other things are niceties that are only observed as far as it remains convenient. One reason the US doesn't use flamethrowers anymore is because they are "inhumane." A far better reason is that they are hazardous to use and are only effective at relatively short ranges. If they had not been replaced by better and more practical weapons I am quite sure they would still be in the arsenal.

I often wonder while killing countless people why none of them ever throw down their arms in the face of this unstoppable killing machine that is my game avatar. In particular I wonder why injured fighters never give up. Sure when you are fighting someone who is a fundamentalist or is super dedicated to their cause they may want to go down swinging, but a regular soldier? They probably just want to see their wife, child, mother or father again.

I would like to see a big budget game that included these mechanics. Also one way of tackling the IHL without resorting to court scenes would be just to have your NPC team mates treat you differently. Disapproving if you shoot injured or surrendering soldiers, ostracising you if you continually do it. I do like the idea of a court martial cutscene at the end of a game though, but I like games where a decision made early in the game will change the ending.

Oh fine... When those Forsworns surrender in Skyrim I'll not cut them down. Unless they pick up an axe and come back at me.

But no mercy for mud crabs!!!

yeah, was playing brink not that long ago, and I found out it was really easy to score points by executing wounded enemies by running up to them and beating their faces in with the butt of my rifle, which I am certain is against IHL, and using bayonets I think is illegal, at least in Canada, or that's what my friends in the armed forces have told me. yeah, games with laws/humam rights could be interesting

While it's interesting to look at IHL as a game mechanic, I feel the first paragraph was very misleading:

The internet's penchant for hyperbole stirred fears that the organization would push for restrictions on videogame content, and the Red Cross was quickly forced to clarify that it had no intent of pursuing legal action.

It wasn't the Internet's penchant for hyperbole that stirred this fear but rather a direct quote from the Red Cross:

"One possible course of action could be to encourage game designers/producers to incorporate IHL in the development and design of video games, while another could be to encourage governments to adopt laws and regulations to regulate this ever-growing industry."

The first part of that quote is a great idea. The second part pushes every alarm bell on an industry well used to defending itself from crazy legislation. Furthermore, the Red Cross clarified that it had no intention of bringing legal action against gamers who committed virtual atrocities. It never recanted it's earlier statement about encouraging legislation against infringing videogames.

A few media reported that certain virtual acts performed by characters in video games could amount to serious violations of the law of armed conflict. Is this correct?

No. Serious violations of the laws of war can only be committed in real-life situations, not in video games.

Again, I don't want to derail any discussion of developers incorporating IHL in games. I just felt that leading the article with a straw man did a disservice to the main body of the argument.

oktalist:

Jumwa:
the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas (which, FYI, the British were the first to engage in, not the Germans)

Got a source? As far as I can tell, both powers shifted from precision bombing of legitimate targets to area bombing of cities gradually during 1940-41 for reasons of practicality, so it's very difficult to say who did it first.

But the Nazis had been doing it before WW2 even started.

image

I think he may be referring to the air raids on Berlin during the Battle of Britain that led to Hitler ordering terror bombing campaigns on London and other civilian targets in retaliation. The way I understand it the British flew a lot of their bombing missions at night to reduce their losses. However, as you can probably guess, it can be very difficult to accurately bomb targets, or to see them, at night and civilian casualties ensue. There was a particular air raid on 25 August 1940 in which 81 RAF bombers were sent to bomb industrial and commercial targets in Berlin, but ended up dropping some of the bombs across heavily populated areas of the city (however this may have been during the day).

Hitler's initial reasons for bombing London and other civilian targets during the Battle of Britain were anything but practical. He did it because it was retaliation for attacks on Berlin that led to civilian casualties. Shifting his attacks from strategic targets to cities was a very bad decision for multiple reasons.

1) London was further inland and this meant that fighter escorts could not stay with the bombers very long once over the target because they had less fuel
2) Since the bombers had to fly further in land, this gave British fighters more time to scramble and shoot them down
3)The RAF airfields were still working and the Luftwaffe shift to attacking cities allowed the RAF to recover and regroup. In short there were still many strategic targets remaining.

Jumwa:
(which, FYI, the British were the first to engage in, not the Germans)

If you count only the later parts where WW II was already well underway.
In the meantime however, the staunch defense of the Netherlands and the outlook of high casualties and no succes in the north while Belgium and France were rapidly falling, made the German high command order this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotterdam_Blitz

After that came the immediate threat to also do the same to Utrecht and other large cities, which prompted surrender.

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