ICRC investigating whether Geneva, Hague-conventions should apply to games

Saturday, 3 December 2011 18:19 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

The International Committee of the Red Cross is looking into whether videogames in which the player participates in wars, whether fictional or not, should adhere to the Geneva and Hague conventions.

Should the Committee, which held a side event during the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland this week to discuss the matter, decide that it the conventions should indeed apply to virtual victims of war in videogames; the body will move to “encourage” governments to adopt such regulatory laws in videogames.

“While the Movement works vigorously to promote international humanitarian law worldwide, there is also an audience of approximately 600 million gamers who may be virtually violating IHL,” read the event’s description. “Exactly how video games influence individuals is a hotly debated topic, but for the first time, Movement partners discussed our role and responsibility to take action against violations of IHL in videogames. In a side event, participants were asked: ‘What should we do, and what is the most effective method?’

“While National Societies shared their experiences and opinions, there is clearly no simple answer. There is, however, an overall consensus and motivation to take action.”

The Committee’s purpose during the meeting was to discuss the “trivialization of international humanitarian law violations” games and debate whether it could “help reduce these ‘virtual’ — yet very realistic — violations of IHL.”

“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 description stated.

When Kotaku, which first published the story, asked the ESA for comment a spokesperson told the site that while it was aware of the meeting, it could not comment on the Movement’s “merits or specifics” at the time. However, the ESA remains firm on its immovable commitment “to developers’ rights for creative freedom and in achieving their artistic vision.”

Alexandra Boivin, head of the Civil Society Relations Unit’s Department of International Law and Cooperation for the committee, declined to discuss the Movement’s findings as well, but did say the ICRC would post more information on the topic at a later date.

This isn’t the first time a group has discussed whether or not international humanitarian laws should apply to games: TRIAL, a Geneva-based organization that deals in international crimes such as genocide, along with humanitarian and war crimes proposed the same suggestion in 2007.

More detailed information on the ICRC proposal can be found through the link.