Virtual war crimes won't lead to real world prosecution, the International Committee of the Red Cross clarified today.
While the international humanitarian group has discussed whether the Geneva and Hague conventions should be applied to the fictional recreation of war in video games it isn't doing so to potentially prosecute gamers. Rather, they say, they hope to use games to raise awareness of the rules of real warfare.
Last week Kotaku reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross was hoping to get developers to incorporate Geneva and Hague conventions into video games. Some media outlets later reported that could mean potential prosecution of gamers.
The committee said today in a FAQ on their website on the topic that in a side meeting earlier this month the committee considered "various ways in which the rules applicable in armed conflict could feature in simulations."
The informal discussion, they said, did not lead to an adoption of a resolution or plan of action. Last week, a spokesperson told Kotaku that while no plan was formalized the issue was still under consideration.
When the story hit, it spurred a strong reaction from some who said that they felt that the organization was wasting its time on video games.
Much of the FAQ addresses that concern.
"In real life, armed forces are subject to the laws of armed conflict," according to the site. "Video games simulating the experience of armed forces therefore have the potential to raise awareness of the rules that those forces must comply with whenever they engage in armed conflict – this is one of the things that interests the ICRC.
"Part of the ICRC's mandate, conferred on it by States, is to promote respect for international humanitarian law – also known as the law of armed conflict – and universal humanitarian principles. Given this mandate and the ICRC's long history and expertise in matters relating to armed conflict, the development of these games is clearly of interest to the organization."
The committee went on to say that while real-life warfare is it's primary concern, they have the ability and staffing to deal with other issues.
"With its roughly 12,000 staff, the ICRC carries out humanitarian activities in situations of armed violence all over the world. It is often the first organization to arrive on the scene when conflict erupts and to attend to the needs of people detained, displaced or otherwise affected. It also strives to bring about improved compliance with the law of armed conflict and thereby contribute to creating an environment conducive to respect for the dignity of persons affected."
While mandating the inclusion of humanitarian law conventions in video games is a bad idea, I think developers willingly including them could lead to some interesting new video games.