Ubisoft has been accused of breaking international laws by anti-war group Direct Action to Stop the War for its role in the development of America's Army, an FPS used as a recruiting tool by the U.S. Army.
In a letter to Ubisoft North America President Laurent Detoc, the group said it believed the company was breaking international law against the recruitment of child soldiers as a result of the game's T (Teen) rating by the ESRB, which clears it for play by teenagers 13 years of age and older.
"The military recruitment of children under the age of 17, however, is a clear violation of international law (the U.N. Optional Protocol). No attempt to recruit children 13-16 is allowed in the United States, pursuant to treaty," the letter said. "It is also important to consider the effects of the game within the context of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Undoubtedly soldiers now recruited through America's Army will serve in these wars. The invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are violations of international law, and contributing to their continuation through the propagation of the game is, if not a criminal violation, a moral outrage."
"Ubisoft's role as publisher of America's Army is contributing to an international crime," the letter continued. "But you are not alone: Gameloft is working on the cellphone application and Secret Level was a developer of the 2005 version of the game. Is child recruitment, recruitment to fight the cause of dubious wars the proper business of your company and those of you in their employ?"
Representatives for Direct Action to Stop the War claimed to have spoken to Detoc on the phone following the release of the letter, during which he said Ubisoft had already decided to halt its participation in the development and publication of America's Army. Despite that, the group expressed doubt about Detoc's sincerity, saying, "If Ubisoft's claims are true, why have they not publicly announced the end of the work for the Army's recruitment videogame, and why have they not ended their contract with the Army, set to expire in 2015? Our requests of Mr. Detoc and Ubisoft remain the same: We would like to sit down with the company to ask them to end their contracts with the military, stop work on the game, and make public pronouncements in writing to that effect."
First released in 2002, America's Army has come under fire in recent years as U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq have become increasingly bogged down and deadly, drawing protests from anti-war groups and veterans of Iraq as well as threats from Jack Thompson. Nonetheless, an Xbox 360-exclusive addition to the franchise, America's Army: True Soldiers, was released in November 2007 along with a line of action figures based on the games was unveiled in November.
Ubisoft has not yet commented on the report.