The Red Cross Wants Games to Respect The "Rules of War"

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The Red Cross Wants Games to Respect The "Rules of War"

The Red Cross thinks virtual soldiers should be held to the same standard as real ones.

The Red Cross believes international "laws of war" should feature a more prominent role in games where players engage in realistic combat scenarios. The international aid organization, which plays a role overseeing international law as per the Geneva Convention, believes that some games depict war too well to ignore proper battlefield conduct.

Francoid Senechaud, head of unit for relations with armed and security forces for the International Committee of the Red Cross thinks the organization should have design input on game series like Call of Duty and Battlefield, which are billed as realistic:

"Video games that are representing battlefields, contemporary battlefields, are very close to reality," Senechaud told the BBC. "And actually it's very difficult to tell the difference between any 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 that we have to include the rules of the laws of conflict."

While some video games penalize players for hurting civilians, few actively acknowledge the soldiers that there are rules of engagement dictating who soldiers can shoot, and when. In the real world, shooting civilians or even armed combatants without cause, could be considered a war crime. The ICRC hopes developers will avoid putting players in situations where they may be praised or rewarded for reckless behavior in combat.

Obviously it would be ideal if video games, especially violent ones, could foster a more nuanced understanding of what it means to fight a war, but some games are better suited to such rules than others. The question is: Do developers have an ethical obligation to at least suggest players hold themselves to the same standards in a game as the world expects of real soldiers in the field?

Source: BBC

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Putting aside that the idea of rules of engagement in a war are silly to the point that it will get your ass handed to you by a bunch of guys in caves for a decade and change. I think that if the realistic war styled games forced players to stick to the international rules of engagement, while having them frustrated to no end by npc that don't follow said rules, I think it would make for a very compelling gameplay experience.

Do they have an ethical obligation? No, they don't. Certain games don't fit it; the CoD community would implode if they had to abide by Geneva and the Rules of Engagement.

Does that mean nobody should try it? I don't know about you, but a persistent world where you can be taken as a POW (instead of just dying and respawning), with regular raids to free said POWs might prove interesting.

Umm, no. Even when I'm not acting as a legitimate military force in a realistic game, I tend to kill enough people who may or may not have deserved it for my actions to be considered on par with a war crime.

Welp, if they are going to play lick ass to the Military, games like COD should at least make the effort.
I remember seeing this show called Game Theory that did a episode based off COD War-crimes.

That being said, if that can't convince movies to do the same, I don't think they'll have much luck here.

"Shooting an armed combatant without cause is a war crime."

Um no its not? If they are armed, and a combatant, that means they are shootable. If not, well I guess snipers who shoot armed targets are all war criminals... If they drop their weapon and are surrendering, they are no longer armed, nor are they a combatant.

And as for the question at the end of the post; No. Its a fucking game. Fiction, Fantasy, ect. When the red cross starts whining and bitching about murders in movies like SAW not being properly prosecuted, or about the folks in Watchmen not acting like proper soldiers in Vietnam, then I will take them a bit more seriously.

But as it stands, with them being whiny idiots about videogames while movies get a free pass I will just laugh at them and their complaints. Hell, if I was a dev I might just include an achievement for being a war criminal to spite them.

Diablo1099:
Welp, if they are going to play lick ass to the Military, games like COD should at least make the effort.

They made a game once that put effort into being as close as possible to real life combat ops...

image

And I think we all remember how that one turned out...

I always thought the most barbaric aspect about war was trying to apply rules to them. Rather than trying to show you can kill people more humanly if you follow a UN charter or some treaty, show the impact of loss and death of any conflict creates.

Then again if the next Call Of Duty game consisted of the player loading up the first map, stepping on a IED within 5 minutes and losing both legs and an arm, then spending the rest of the game in a veterans hospital where eventually you're discharged and forgotten about by an uncaring government and left to spiral into drugs and drink to cope with PTSD which eventually ends in your suicide, might be realistic but I doubt it will sell. Games are not real and never will be and I think 99% of players know this regardless how shiny the graphics are.

Michael Epstein:

The Red Cross believes international "laws of war" should feature a more prominent role in games where players engage in realistic combat scenarios.

Well there you have it. Cod doesn't feature 'realistic combat scenarios' so it does need to conform to those rules.

On the other hand, Arma III will need to.

Only if it's a role-playing war game, focused on realism, it would be cool, you go to trial and whatnot... But if it's CoD, Battlefield etc, the non-accountability is part of the fun, it keeps things simple and fast, lest they become like one of those modern race games that are only accessible to auto/race enthusiasts.

Games stop being fun when they are taken too seriously, sure you have the "simulator" audience, but they are a niche, and they will surely enjoy the more realistic their "hobby" gets, which makes total sense in a hardcore simulator...

I am quite proud of earning the Geneva Contravention achievement in TF2 thank you very much.

Its a game, worry about what real soldiers do more then digital ones.

But then you don't get a scene where you shoot a bunch of defenseless civilians in an airport! Especially the ones that don't end up having anything to do with the main plot. And were just a gimmick thrown in to get a shock factor! Whatever would we do without them? I wonder what the rules of war are when it comes to dogs...

Sure it would be a war crime, because in real war those happen all the time.

Micah Weil:
Do they have an ethical obligation? No, they don't. Certain games don't fit it; the CoD community would implode if they had to abide by Geneva and the Rules of Engagement.

Does that mean nobody should try it? I don't know about you, but a persistent world where you can be taken as a POW (instead of just dying and respawning), with regular raids to free said POWs might prove interesting.

I'd honestly love to play a game like this, but I'm pretty sure what we'll get is a game that insta kills you for friendly fire or collateral damage, or worse pack the levels with unkillable civilians that keep getting in the way.

So because no one gives a flying F about their cute little war rules in real live now they try to apply them to games?

When was the last time russia or syria actually cared for the Geneva convention? When was the last time the USA followed the Geneva convention?

The only part of those rules the big nations follow are about the usage of weapons of mass destruction, thats it.

People still get tortured and murdered and no one seems to bat an eye when some innocent bystanders are hit by an artillery shell.

Stop pretending war is something civil to make yourself feel good and let games depict the real horror of war... there are no rules in war. War is not a gentlenems agreement.

I actually agree with them. I think that would be good. We've got way too much 24-style "kick their teeth in"-machismo bullshit in our fiction. You can still have all the horrible war crimes you want... just let us shoot at those that commit them, okay?

There's obviously a subset of games that focus on proper procedure (the SWAT-games come to my mind, where you are to capture the perps alive and ensure none of the civilians get hurt), but those are rather more niche than the other kind.

To the inevitable naysayers: Let's not forget this is their opinion. They're not calling for restricting devs' rights or anything, just saying what they'd prefer to see happen. They want to give their input for "realistic" titles, so what? Let them have their free speech, just like they let everybody else have theirs.

While ARMA could certainly benefit from that as addional (optional, more likely), then sure.
CoD on the other hand? In some cases, you're enganging against combatants (MP and SP alike), that are NOT bound by those Rules so limiting the player that way should be cut-scene-exclusive.
Battlefield is dancing on a line in that case and SOME of these Rules of Engangement could be added, but certainly not all.

So, overall, it depends on the game, I would say. But it is certainly an interesting idea.

In fact, CoD and BF could apply to such rules when you play the single-player mode. There, they could really work and show a bit more about the combat in the real world. But when we are talking about the multiplayer, that's another thing completely. We are talking about games where a sniper can jump out of a flying jet, kill the pilot from another jet and capture, in mid air, so, not really realistic.

Someone tell the creators of Just Cause 2 that the cure for slamming into pavement at terminal velocity isn't to slam into it slightly faster.

Tell Valve to cut that portal shit right out.

Stop breaking the laws of physics!

Interestingly enough, the America's Army series of games already includes this. The game has RoE (don't shoot friendlies, don't shoot civvies, don't blow up the mission objective or the VIP, don't shoot downed enemies for lulz - you know... that sort of thing) and actively penalises you for breaking them by giving you a permanent penalty to your "HONOR" rating (basically, the experience bar that lets you unlock other stuff, wave your epeen, etc.).

Seems to work pretty well there, tbh. Most people make a reasonable effort to play within the rules. Of course... it's a much, much more mature community than the mouth-frothing, rabid gaggle of ritalin-popping, terminally aggressive mongooses that constitutes the CoD/BF community so...

Are there actually many examples of games where you can commit warcrimes?

Spec OPs: The Line comes to mind but that is a crafted story line example that specifically focuses on the consequences.

Beyond that, most military FPS games won't let you shoot civilians and the NPC enemies will not try to surrender or drop their weapons. Even wounded enemies will try to shoot at you.

Are we talking about more niche FPS games that I am not familiar with?

KaZuYa:
I always thought the most barbaric aspect about war was trying to apply rules to them. Rather than trying to show you can kill people more humanly if you follow a UN charter or some treaty, show the impact of loss and death of any conflict creates.

The rules of war are what stop countries from just lobbing chemical weapons and dirty bombs at each other, and are what allow us to hold countries like Syria accountable when they then use those weapons in civil conflicts.

There is nothing wrong with laying down some ground rules which say "No matter how bad fighting gets, these things will not be tolerated." The measure of any society is how humane it is. I would much prefer countries are able to fight each other with pre-established rules saying things like nukes, dirty bombs and chemical weapons are banned, rather than living in a world where any country can drop a dirty bomb on anyone else without being held properly accountable.

Desert Punk:
"Shooting an armed combatant without cause is a war crime."

Um no its not? If they are armed, and a combatant, that means they are shootable. If not, well I guess snipers who shoot armed targets are all war criminals... If they drop their weapon and are surrendering, they are no longer armed, nor are they a combatant.

Not true. There is actually combat doctrine which says soldiers are not allowed to fire upon armed enemies unless they have first been fired upon. This is the sort of thing you never see in videogames, and the sort of thing the Red Cross is talking about. Unloading a load of magazines into an armed group who hadn't actually fired upon you is not allowed under current military law, unless it is explicitly clear that it was in direct self-defence. There has to be an actual threat of attack, it's not just enough to say "Well they have guns!" Plenty of people in Afghanistan and Iraq have guns, and not all of them are Taliban or Al-Qaeda.

Snipers are generally only allowed to take out people who are unecuivocably seen as a threat. They're not allowed to just shoot anyone in the combat arena who has a gun. Targets have to be marked and approved as an actual direct threat to the lives of military personnel.

And as for the question at the end of the post; No. Its a fucking game. Fiction, Fantasy, ect. When the red cross starts whining and bitching about murders in movies like SAW not being properly prosecuted

The Red Cross generally deals with giving aid to people who are suffering due to military conflict. Why would they have anything to say about a film centring on a serial killer in America?

or about the folks in Watchmen not acting like proper soldiers in Vietnam, then I will take them a bit more seriously.

Watchmen is an explicitly anti-Vietnam War/anti-war in general story, so I don't know why you feel the Red Cross should take issue with it.

But as it stands, with them being whiny idiots about videogames while movies get a free pass I will just laugh at them and their complaints. Hell, if I was a dev I might just include an achievement for being a war criminal to spite them.

And you would rightly be criticised by the media for taking a very serious real-world issue and playing it for cheap laughs for no reason other than spite. Just like how the media rightly criticised those who made rape-games and abuse-games to spite Anita Sarkeesian.

Diablo1099:
Welp, if they are going to play lick ass to the Military, games like COD should at least make the effort.

They made a game once that put effort into being as close as possible to real life combat ops...

image

And I think we all remember how that one turned out...

Warfighter was not even close to approximating real-life combat. It was a COD clone with COD setpieces and COD action. Games like the original Ghost Recon games, Arma and the like do a much better job at portraying real life combat, but even they aren't perfect.

There isn't anything wrong with the Red Cross saying it would maybe be a good idea to get so called military games to actually portray the parts of the military which say you can't just open fire on anyone who falls under your iron-sights.


So I assume movies and TV shows that depict war will be held to the same standard? No? Then shut the hell up.

Here's an idea, Red Cross: how about you stop wringing your hands over a bunch of pixels and focus more on REAL WARS where REAL PEOPLE suffer and die?

I'm all for game developers utilizing the Geneva Convention in games, but they shouldn't be shoehorned down that route. I doubt Spec Ops: The Line would have had such a lasting impact on players if it was forced to adhere to the rules of war.

Meanwhile in real wars being conducted this very moment those laws are broken all the time where real people are tortured and killed, but hey as long as games stay pristine that's cool right...

KaZuYa:
I always thought the most barbaric aspect about war was trying to apply rules to them. Rather than trying to show you can kill people more humanly if you follow a UN charter or some treaty, show the impact of loss and death of any conflict creates.

Then again if the next Call Of Duty game consisted of the player loading up the first map, stepping on a IED within 5 minutes and losing both legs and an arm, then spending the rest of the game in a veterans hospital where eventually you're discharged and forgotten about by an uncaring government and left to spiral into drugs and drink to cope with PTSD which eventually ends in your suicide, might be realistic but I doubt it will sell. Games are not real and never will be and I think 99% of players know this regardless how shiny the graphics are.

I shouldn't say that, being a lawyer who studied part of this subject (since Brazil isn't a big war figure AT ALL, we don't really cover this in depth), but I do get your point. Can't say I agree with you, I don't, but at the same time, I do, I couldn't explain if I tried...

It's a good intention. The idea is "war might not only be inevitable, at times it might be the only viable option", thus it's officially considered an "instrument of International Law", an extreme last resort instrument, but and instrument nonetheless. The laws that apply to war itself, are meant to keep the suffering to a minimal, chemical weapons are prohibited because they will surely kill, might cause unnecessary suffering before death, and are pretty unstable. In the same line, one can't use exploding bullets, simply because they shatter inside the victim and, if the victim survives, then extraction of the pieces is nearly impossible, which will cause a lot of suffering through one's life (if not death later on). Basically, it's a "let's try to keep the bloodshed to a minimum". Of course it's pretty easy for all these to fall apart, and in the heat of the moment, I don't really know if I could blame a soldier for certain "crimes of war"...

That'd be a very interesting game mechanic. There's the possibility of a few more avenues of choice and consequence.

Yes, it's fiction, but if you are aiming at realism (which is -not- a bad thing, but it does make things rather more difficult), you might as well include it. If we're going to play proper soldiers, we might as well act the part, too.

A game doesn't have to equal throwing all responsibility out of the window. That's one way, but not the only way.

I like the idea of putting this kind of realism in, but I don't think the Red Cross should have input into the development (unless they mean consulting, which I feel wouldn't be a bad idea).

You want a realistic shooter? You don't get to cherry pick the parts if you want to do it well. This goes for you as well movies!

But what about the Nazi Zombies! How are we going to deal with them if we have to abide by Geneva Convention rules?! I NEED MORE CLAMS FOR THE CHOWDAH' HERE!

Oh, and I bet the Red Cross loved the bit in Modern Warfare 2 when Price launches a nuke from a Russian sub at America. :3

In the end I'm with those that say "Start bitching about all the horrendous war crimes committed in movies before you start worrying your pretty little heads about games."

Nielas:
Are there actually many examples of games where you can commit warcrimes?

Spec OPs: The Line comes to mind but that is a crafted story line example that specifically focuses on the consequences.

Beyond that, most military FPS games won't let you shoot civilians and the NPC enemies will not try to surrender or drop their weapons. Even wounded enemies will try to shoot at you.

Are we talking about more niche FPS games that I am not familiar with?

Most military shooters give you the impression that it's ok to empty a magazine into anyone you come across who is holding a gun. That is completely divorced from real life where military personnel may be working with local resistance/armed personnel, so anyone with a gun could just as likely be one of your allies as an enemy combatant. In real life, you cannot open fire on a group, only return fire if it is clear that they are a threat. The first call of action is always to ask them to lay down their weapons and surrender. If they open fire, or make it unmistakeably clear that they intend to open fire (such as raising their weapons) then soldiers can fire in self-defence.

Real life also has very strict rules about not shooting enemy combatants who lay down their weapons, and the due process of arresting them. Something that is never seen in military games, where it is assumed that every enemy combatant is a matyr who must die.

So by the standards of real-world rules of engagement, yes, the protagonists of COD, Battlefield and the like are war criminals.

They seem to forget the part where they are still games and have an audience who consumes them. Games need to be fun and entertaining to sell. Besides that, only a few games are set in the real world.

Put too much bs gears of real life in there, and the fun can easily take a hike to other better games. Seems written by someone who obviously doesn't play games again.

One rule is that you cannot shoot a paratrooper until their feet have touched the ground and they can't shoot at you from the air until that have touched the ground. If they get stuck in a tree or a steeple it's a strange stalemate.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

Not true. There is actually combat doctrine which says soldiers are not allowed to fire upon armed enemies unless they have first been fired upon. This is the sort of thing you never see in videogames, and the sort of thing the Red Cross is talking about. Unloading a load of magazines into an armed group who hadn't actually fired upon you is not allowed under current military law, unless it is explicitly clear that it was in direct self-defence. There has to be an actual threat of attack, it's not just enough to say "Well they have guns!" Plenty of people in Afghanistan and Iraq have guns, and not all of them are Taliban or Al-Qaeda.

Snipers are generally only allowed to take out people who are unecuivocably seen as a threat. They're not allowed to just shoot anyone in the combat arena who has a gun. Targets have to be marked and approved as an actual direct threat to the lives of military personnel.

I think you are talking about rules of engagement in insurgency situations where it is hard to tell enemy combatants from armed civilians. In a general war situation it is fully permitted for one side to fire on an enemy without giving them any warning or a chance to fire first.

I think you are too focused on irregular combat in places like Afghanistan or Iraq and not considering conventional combat situations where the same ambiguity is not present.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

Desert Punk:
"Shooting an armed combatant without cause is a war crime."

Um no its not? If they are armed, and a combatant, that means they are shootable. If not, well I guess snipers who shoot armed targets are all war criminals... If they drop their weapon and are surrendering, they are no longer armed, nor are they a combatant.

Not true. There is actually combat doctrine which says soldiers are not allowed to fire upon armed enemies unless they have first been fired upon. This is the sort of thing you never see in videogames, and the sort of thing the Red Cross is talking about. Unloading a load of magazines into an armed group who hadn't actually fired upon you is not allowed under current military law, unless it is explicitly clear that it was in direct self-defence. There has to be an actual threat of attack, it's not just enough to say "Well they have guns!" Plenty of people in Afghanistan and Iraq have guns, and not all of them are Taliban or Al-Qaeda.

Snipers are generally only allowed to take out people who are unequivocally seen as a threat. They're not allowed to just shoot anyone in the combat arena who has a gun. Targets have to be marked and approved as an actual direct threat to the lives of military personnel.

Thats a combat doctrine not a law. There are multiple doctrines for multiple situations. You may be surprised but there is this combat docterine called an "Ambush" Where you you attack a group of enemies before they have a chance to engage your forces, that way you maximize the damage you are able to do while minimizing your own casualties.

They are not talking about the various doctrines of warfare, they are calling shooting an armed combatant who hasn't shot at you yet a war crime. And in mot FPS games there is plenty of cause to shoot at your NPC targets, they are between you and an objective and when they notice you they are gonna try to kill you right back.

And yes, there are plenty of people in those countries that have guns, they are armed NON-combatants. Allow me to define something for you Combatant; a person or nation engaged in fighting during a war. You notice the part where they are engaged in the fighting? Yeah if they have a gun but aren't engaged they are a non combatant, regardless if they are armed or not.

And you keep believing thats how snipers work, I could tell you some stories, but I am not going to bother as you would just complain about anecdotal evidence or something along those lines.

KeyMaster45:
Puttin aside that the idea of rules of engagement in a war are silly to the point that it will get your ass handed to you by a bunch of guys in caves for a decade and change. I think that if the realistic war styled games forced players to stick to the international rules of engagement, while having them frustrated to no end by npc that don't follow said rules, I think it would make for a very compelling gameplay experience.

This does sound kind of amazing. I'd be all over a game like that.

Somebody make it happen.

WouldYouKindly:
Umm, no. Even when I'm not acting as a legitimate military force in a realistic game, I tend to kill enough people who may or may not have deserved it for my actions to be considered on par with a war crime.

What? Number of casualties inflicted is rarely a defining point in whether something is a war crime or not.

While they are complex things the international ones are not actually usually all that draconian, and are designed to take into account the difficult nature of these things. I've seen plenty of seemingly daft ones, but they are often national ROI and usually designed to avert full conflict where it is not already happening.

It's usually fine inside an active warzone to shoot an armed, uniformed (or the local approximation there of in the case of a militia or similar) enemy combatent. Genrally if it isnt theres a clear reason why, (and in some cases being armed may well make them in breach of said reason). Simiarly shooting a unarmed civilian is genrally a no-no (though assuming you are using an appropriate ROI for the likelyhood of civilians and you misidentfy a civilian as an armed combatent there may well be grounds in the international rules to have it marked down as a tragic accident), armed civilians are trickier and if there is evidence they are acting in a certain manner they may forfit their protections as a civlian and indeed most of those afforded to POWs.

The major issue is that in most COD style games you play as a Special Forces unit of some flavour and are therfore much more likely to be carrying out operations where you are at least as hard up against the rules as possible if not over them.

Given the lack of surrendering, and indeed often civilians in many of the games theres often little player choice in the breaking of the rules that are left, as if they are broken it is often a parameter outside of the players control or a requirement to procede. The liniar nature of most of this genre makes the introduction of the rules as things to be followed quite tricky, there needs to be much more feredom, and the missions need to moved to ones where options make sense.

One major issue on the thing is trying to balance the risk reward factor, if the legal route is more rewarding then it also has to be harder which may be seen as punishing the player for doing the right thing. Not an easy line to tred you want the ame to balance this, but also not make it clear what all the consequenses are, to try and avoid one being seen as the easy mode. You also need to be asking players the greyer questions, do you want the safer quicker method that carriers a greater risk of penalties for things going wrong or the harder slower method that still doesnt make the penalties impossible.

I always thought the rules of war were, "do whatever your CO tells you," and "don't die," in that order.

So whats next ..Movies and crime shows need to follow the real rules ? Not to mention any books in a modern setting about war ? This is the so silly i can belive it can be called a story.

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