View Full Version : Red Cross debates if Geneva & Haag conventions should apply to video games

05-12-2011, 02:29 AM
From Kotaku:

Did a search and didn't see it posted before.
Honestly, don't know what to say...I know some people play violent video games to vent aggression or similar.

05-12-2011, 02:35 AM
Thought crimes lol

Looks like people worrying about violence in games have a harder time separating it from reality than gamers.

05-12-2011, 02:40 AM
Kotaku says thaCLOSETAB

05-12-2011, 10:55 AM
This is utter nonsense. When will people stop blaming videogames for violence. What about violent movies & books? Why don't they bullshit about that?

05-12-2011, 11:27 AM
Kotaku says thaCLOSETAB


05-12-2011, 11:39 AM
This is utter nonsense.
It's a side event discussing the issue. Given that, presumably, the support of the populace must to some extent underpin the perpertration of war crimes, why is this utter nonsense?

When will people stop blaming videogames for violence.I don't see that blame for violence is being apportioned in the article. I see the following

The purpose of this week's examination of the topic by the International Committee of the Red Cross was to present the committee's position on the trivialization of international humanitarian law violations in video games and discussing it with their wider members.The suggestion is that games, like anything else that communicates a message, are able to educate. They are able to tell the player stupid and misleading things - say about the utility of torture - or to present things in a positive light that we, in general, would generally decry as unethical. Or they are able to tell the player about the world, or to provide moral instruction.

What's going here is that some people are wondering about the utility of the games to educate people both in the factual relevance of the various International Laws that apply to armed conflict, and somewhat differently, to push their (hardly niche) moral agenda about not killing civilians and prisoners of war etc.

I think it's interesting area to properly explore, particularly given how tediously jingoistic and moronic the depiction of violence is in many popular games. It's more worrying, to me, when they talk of legislation and the like.

What about violent movies & books? Why don't they bullshit about that? There remains an ongoing dialogue in most Western countries about the depiction violence in almost any form of media, and regulation. For example, sexual violence in film remains heavily restricted, particularly but not only for general release, in the UK. (Notably, in that example context and exposition concerning the violence are significant factors in a BBFC decision. We may wish to consider games like MW3, and the extent to which they provide any kind of meaningful commentary of the violence that they depict.)

05-12-2011, 11:58 AM
I think it's interesting area to properly explore, particularly given how tediously jingoistic and moronic the depiction of violence is in many popular games. It's more worrying, to me, when they talk of legislation and the like.

Yes I think its a really interesting thing to explore in games. Imagine an FPS talking about the toll of war on the self and on the populace instead of all these games saying WAR IS GREAT AMERICA IS AWESOME SUCK IT really loudly.

05-12-2011, 12:13 PM
Even if you accept the premise that it is right to interfere with an art form to allow only morally acceptable messages to be conveyed, is this really a message you would want to send?

That soldiers (or is it just soldiers of western nations) will always and in all situations follow current international law, or if they don't will be punished for their sins?

That the death of civilians is always against the interests of those who kill them?

That (if I understand Zetetic correctly) everything defined as a war crime is automatically self defeating? So torture does not in fact help with the extraction of information, and it is only carried out by stupid people who mistakenly believe it does? Or that ethnic cleansing is never successful, if you are defining success as removing an ethnic population from a geographic area?

If anything it would seem to promote the play-war point of view. The illusion that war can be clean. That it can be perfected to a point where there are no moral grey areas, and can be conducted with a clean conscience before coming home for tea and medals.

05-12-2011, 12:30 PM
I agree that the power of games to educate is an opportunity, and possibly an area of concern. The article states:

They also pointed out that since a few games do punish the killing of civilians or reward strategies that aim to prevent excessive damage, that including such rules is possible.

Their recommendations?

"It is regrettable that game producers hardly ever use this possibility to creatively incorporate the rules of international law or even representatives of such rules (such as the ICRC or the international criminal courts etc.) as specific elements in the course of the game,"

While having an ICRC rep wander on to the scene in MWn+1 might be odd, I can't help but think that publishers do have a bit of a responsability towards society, especially seeing the take up of their game is with a predominantly young male audience.

05-12-2011, 12:31 PM
Those are all entirely reasonable points, mike2R. However, I think that you have to consider the real context that any contemporary discussion about the depiction of violence, and its utility, in video games takes place in. There isn't, in general, a wide range of views or any depth of message being conveyed by mainstream violent games - at least not by comparison to films or books.

The torture example is interesting one - I can think of a number of instances where torture is shown to effective, either with or without the player's intervention, in popular video games, and none where it is not. In each case, you may argue that this is not unrealistic or false or whatever - on any given occasion torture may prove useful - but examining all those works together and the trend is both misleading and worrying.

What's to be done? I don't know - these games are produced by variety of different individuals and companies, and I would oppose almost any kind of legislation on the issue. Particularly, as you say, an unthinking restriction would greatly diminish the ability to provide any sort of commentary on war.

(I always think Natural Born Killers is an interesting example here, from film. Cited often, infamously, by the Columbine perpetrators - although we should still be very careful about speculating about any causal effect it might have actually had - it's clearly expressing a deep concern about the direction of media attention and glorification. Such pieces, or even satires often enough, are stuck with this sort of duplicity I suppose.)

I think Kotaku's reporting hasn't really helped (does it ever?), and the possibility of someone arriving at a stupid conclusion ("We must criminalize all depictions of violation of war crimes!") doesn't mean that there isn't a discussion worth having.

05-12-2011, 12:48 PM
What is this to me? All the games I play have wizards in.

05-12-2011, 01:35 PM
What is this to me? All the games I play have wizards in.

And I bet your games glorify larceny too.

05-12-2011, 04:36 PM
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.

I'm not entirely clear on where US and UK speech/expression laws differ, but in the US this is in direct opposition to the First Amendment. "Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

Issues like this are worth looking at and talking about, but legislating away ideas you dislike (even abhorrent ideas) is dangerous beyond words.

05-12-2011, 05:28 PM
Notably, the United States is the Western government with perhaps the greatest emphasis on freedom of speech - and even that has various obvious compromises such as those concerning defamation and child pornography. (The US has compromises on 'obscene' material as well, but the standards are very, very high.) The United Kingdom, France and Germany, to take three examples, all have much more public stances on where they are perfectly prepared to compromise freedom of speech, to an extent, to serve another aim.

The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification - also does games as it happens) is such a compromise. Unlike the MPAA's film rating system, film certificates have the force of law in the UK (although its more complicated than the BBFC's certificate, as local authorities can set the certificate for showing in cinemas). Very few films will be denied any kind of certificate, and instead restrictions will be placed on distribution based on the content - ranging from age restrictions (12,15,18) to only being sold via licensed sex shops (18R). These days, the only films that are denied any certification are generally only those showing sexual violence for prolonged periods without any manner of 'mitigating' context.

Now, in the United States, such an arrangement wouldn't be constitutional - instead you have various voluntary organisations that only, ostensibly, have over the advisory aspect of the BBFC. I don't think that it's trivial to suggest that either approach is better than the other. What I think the BBFC does demonstrate is that it's possible for a Government to take a position on regulation without it really degenerating into what most of us would call censorship. It's worth noting though that it's taken decades - and much change in public opinion - for the BBFC to end up at such a position.

(There are also much more worrying restrictions in Britain, such as relatively vague and wide-ranging - if primarily concerned, again, with sexual violence - laws the criminalise even possession of certain materials. The BBFC's certificates do not affect possession.)

But, anyway, I think part of why we need to talk about these issues is because if we don't then there is a risk of censorship. Perhaps part of the outcome needs to be an attempt by large publishers to make games that, frankly, approach violence in a more grown-up fashion. The more that we talk of games as art or message-bearers, the more we have to consider what they are telling us. And I'm not sure that really happens at EA or whatever.

05-12-2011, 05:38 PM
Great post, thanks for the rundown.

05-12-2011, 05:43 PM
This is utter nonsense. When will people stop blaming videogames for violence.

When the next thing to blame comes along. Comic books, movies, television, jazz, rock and roll, rap and countless other forms of expression have all been in this same hotseat before. It's a media rite of passage, the new guy always gets blamed for all of society's ills.