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

Saturday, 3rd 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.



  1. FrankieDF

    This is insane. Are they going to move to apply the Geneva and Hague conventions to all other forms of storytelling as well?

    #1 3 years ago
  2. NiceFellow

    Can’t see how this would really work really.

    @1 to be fair only videogames make fun of war as an interactive pastime. Most films and novels (probably not all I’d assume) take the “war is hell” approach. Videogames imply it’s fun to indulge in.

    Personally, games like CoD consist of silly SP combined with a virtual version of Cowboys and Indians which it’s hard to get too worked up about really.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Ireland Michael

    I completely agree.

    Xxsplifniggahxsniper75xX deserves the same respects and honours as every real word soldier gets.

    Who are we to dismiss their contribution to society? IT’S NOT RIGHT!

    #3 3 years ago
  4. DSB

    @2 Really dude? You’ve never heard of Stripes, Rambo, Platoon, Sniper, Apocalypse Now, Spies Like Us, Doctor Strangelove, Casualties of War, Red Dawn or Delta Force? Or the million of other movies that violate those conventions and make a general mockery out of warfare?

    The idea that movies and books somehow limit themselves according to a code of honor is just ridiculous. Their creatives are just as liable to do whatever they want, however they want, and movies are certainly every bit as bad as videogames.

    There was nothing in Modern Warfare 2 that could really touch the human rights violations according to UN charters, that you might find in an episode of 24 or The Pacific.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. LOLshock94

    whats whether Geneva and Hague conventions?

    #5 3 years ago
  6. NiceFellow

    @4 I have but clearly you’re completely missing the context of how violations tend to occur in other media and how meaning is provided or don’t see the difference.

    I’m not saying it’s right to apply something different to videogames – I think it’s pretty silly actually as we’re talking about what for most in the ability to play Cowboys and Indians online. In fact I think it’s wrong.

    I was just pointing out that few novels/films essentially use a combat based setting for nothing more than pure fun which is of course what most videogames are doing. Much as we all enjoy them at the end of the day they are in context – for example – basically saying here have fun seeing if you can get up Omaha beach intact or rushing around a Middle Eastern village stabbing people.

    That’s always been why they’ve attracted so much heat from certain parties.

    Films and novels are as having something important to say about the nature of conflict whereas games are seen – perhaps rightly – as just using it as a backdrop for some playtime: and clearly this will always rile those groups who feel the need to impose direction on others to make sure they’re thinking the right things.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. DarkElfa

    I guess next we’ll be doing 55 in driving games and complementing hookers in GTA.

    Get the fuck out of here with this bullshit. Real world rules should not apply to imaginary worlds.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. DSB

    @6 How do you know whether people are having fun, or whether they’re taking it seriously, as opposed to simply being immersed/stimulated/entertained through fear and anxiety? Quite arguably controlling the guy to rush up Omaha should be every bit as exhilarating, if not more, than watching someone do the same in a movie.

    Which is where this legislation would go – Trying to read peoples minds. If it’s bad faith entertainment, then it should be banned, and if it’s good faith entertainment, then it should be enjoyed freely.

    The determination between bad and good faith would be purely up to one group of human beings attempting to divine the initial intent based on the work of other human beings. It would still be purely subjective, and the standard would still belong solely to the individual.

    The idea that films and novels have more to say certainly have merit, in that most game developers obviously aren’t willing to pay for proper writers, but ultimately that’s also not a standard that can be applied to anything in terms of legislating towards limiting peoples right to free expression, simply becuase we have no idea what speaks to whom, or on what level.

    Nor any expectation in society or law, to say that every expression must have a deeper meaning or moral context to be considered legal. Quite the opposite. Freedom of expression means just that.

    Maybe Joe the Truckdriver gets extremely inspired when watching 24, whereas Marcel the Hipster needs to look at the newest street art. Ultimately they’re both citizens, and legislation needs to accommodate them both, without trying to define what “speaks” to whom or of what.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. OrbitMonkey

    Team death match will be interesting if the opposition has the option to surrender…

    Of course this then could open up a exciting mini-game of if choosing to execute them, where do you hide the bodies, so UN inspectors can’t find them?

    Be funny to see if this international law applies to intergalactic enemies? Do chimera have human rights?

    #9 3 years ago
  10. DSB

    Man, I’d love to see what would happen if the UN Weapons Inspectors tried to interview Serious Sam.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. ItsFade

    Well this is right and proper asinine. ಠ_ಠ

    #11 3 years ago
  12. Ireland Michael

    @8 “How do you know whether people are having fun, or whether they’re taking it seriously, as opposed to simply being immersed/stimulated/entertained through fear and anxiety?”

    The argument of media’s influence on people’s actions has been beaten to death, and the answers are always the same: Fantasy does not influence people’s actions, unless the person is mentally unstable themselves already.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. OrbitMonkey

    ^ Advertising says “hi”…

    #13 3 years ago
  14. Night Hunter

    Real Wars don’t abide by the Geneva Convention, but wars in computer games should …

    Messed up!

    Which doesn’t mean that I’m against the whole Geneva convention thing, but it just wouldn’t fit reality, or actually even worse than walking around like a friggin’ army of one already does ;)

    #14 3 years ago
  15. NiceFellow

    @8 agree completely. Again note I’m not saying this is right – just noting what I believe are the common misconceptions driving it in response to the first post.

    Right or wrong it is clearly the general view of policy makers that films/novels don’t need legislation because of their historic importance, handling of serious themes seriously, etc. etc. whereas they see games as potentially trivializing certain topics.

    TBH if you want freedom of speech (at least as a principle accepting there will always be some limits) then you need to accept games (and films/novels even though they do so less commonly) will use war settings for entertainment purposes.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Edo

    Oh how I would like that some takes advantage of this BS and makes some sort of parody in their game,I can already imagine it”But the Geneva Convention,but The Geneva Convention!!” Bam!!!

    #16 3 years ago

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