06 December 2011

The Red Cross Weighs In on Virtual War Crimes

I'm going to admit that at first blush, the article about the ICRC investigating possible war crimes in video games gave me a facepalm. I was going to post a poll with the options being "dumb idea", "stupid idea", and "f'n' waste of time". But on further reflection, I will give the ICRC credit here, even though I don't think they're doing this with the foresight I'm about to ascribe to them.

One of the world's largest and most respected humanitarian groups in the world is investigating whether the Geneva and Hague conventions should be applied to the fictional recreation of war in video games.
If they agree those standards should be applied, the International Committee of the Red Cross says they may ask developers to adhere to the rules themselves or "encourage" governments to adopt laws to regulate the video game industry.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is mandated under the Geneva Conventions to protect the victims of international and internal armed conflicts. That includes war wounded, prisoners, refugees, civilians, and other non-combatants. The question they debated this week is whether their mandate should be extended to the virtual victims of video game wars.

While the "virtual victims" are virtual today, we've seen no shortage of remote-control warfare, from Predator-equipped drones to CROWS turrets. Given the slow, but inexorable, shift in the visualization provided by remote-control weaponry, and the more graphically realistic portrayal of game-based content, are we rapidly closing on the day when the video games and video targeting are visually indistinguishable? And if so, then how far are we, really, from Ender's Game?

If that's really where the Red Cross is going with this, then bravo. They're establishing standards now, before the industry ever catches up to the standard from a technical aspect. Maybe we've learned the lessons of internet 'regulation' after all. But somehow, I'm pretty sure that's not what the ICRC is actually trying to do. So it seems as though they might actually be doing the right thing, even if it's for the wrong reasons.

What do you guys think?

UPDATE: Here's a thoughtful piece from Rex over at PaxSims about the same topic.

By: Brant


RangerX3X said...

This type of overreaching by the Red Cross will give them the same level of credibility that other politically driven organizations enjoy, notably Amnesty International trying to get any country to arrest George Bush for torture yet willfully ignore Barrack Obama and his extrajudicial killing of an American citizen.

If video games were to be regulated in such a manner, all media would also have to be regulated, which would mean there could be no movie depicting a war crime, or a book, a song, or a speech depicting such war crimes.

What better way to deny the Holocaust than to force every known reference to it from existence under such a law.
I bet Milk-Moo INeedToGetAJob sponsored this Red Cross symposium…

Anonymous said...

I have to say my thinking is a lot like brant's on this one. Seemed stupid at first but maybe not such a bad idea after all

- Mike P