Play virtual war as much as you like, but don’t shoot at the Red Cross!

Permanent Observatory on Small Arms, Security and Defence Policies (OPAL) -

(See article of origin from International Red Cross below Notes on this Press Release by OPAL)

NPR: A gamer plays a war game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles in June. The ICRC wants war games to spread understanding of the rules of armed conflict.The Permanent Observatory on Small Arms, Security and Defence Policies of Brescia (Italy) considers “inappropriate and counterproductive” the initiative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to cooperate with companies that develop and produce video games reproducing real-war situations to introduce into such video games the rules of war and international humanitarian law.

A recent statement released by the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report s that “The ICRC has started working with video game developers, so that video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldier”. 1

"Not only does this legitimise the use and dissemination of these video games but, paradoxically, it contributes to making them even more realistic, thus creating a dangerous affinity between the game an d reality» - says the Permanent Observatory on Small Arms (OPAL) based in Brescia.

"We acknowledge – continues the statement of OPAL – that today these video games have a global circulation and we understand the need to find ways of avoiding that they may further promote a notion of war as an indiscriminate reality. But we believe that the effort to include the rules of war so as to make these video games “closer to reality” 2 is artificial and, above all, counterproductive".

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) , after releasing last year a paper 3 on the relationship between “video games and humanitarian norms”, has decided to collaborate with developers of video games that simulate real situations of war. “The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – reports the statement released by the ICRC – has publicly stated its interest in the implications of video games that simulate real-war situations and the opportunities such games present for spreading knowledge of the law of armed conflict”. “However – the statements notes – the ICRC is not involved in the debate about the level of violence in video games”.

"We are astounded – says Piergiulio Biatta , President of OPAL – that in order to try to avoid giving the players the impression that everything is allowed in war, the International Red Cross has ended up underestimating the harmful impact of these video games, especially on young people and on their perception of reality. Rather than trying to introduce the rules of war in video games we would have expected from the Red Cross an international campaign for strict regulation of the use of these wargames outside the military or, at least, a call for very rigorous controls on access to such video games, especially by minors".

The results of a research published in July 2012 in the “Journal of Experimental Social Psychology” reveals that “people who use violent video games for three consecutive days show aggressive behaviour and hostile expectations that increases every day” 4 . Even the paper released by the ICRC admits that “ while researchers have not established a causal link between violent games and violent behaviour, they have not excluded such a link”. 5

The concern that drove the Geneva-based Committee to intervene in the world of video games is that some virtual scenarios, especially the more realistic ones, “could lead to a trivialization of serious violations of the law of armed conflict”. Among the main violations the ICRC includes “the use of torture, particularly in interrogation, deliberate attacks on civilians, the killing of prisoners or the wounded, attacks on medical personnel, facilities, and transport such as ambulances, or that anyone on the battlefield can be kill ed”.

"If we think – notes Piero P. Giorgi , former Professor of Neuroscience at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Queensland (Australia) and member of the Scientific Committees of OPAL – of the addiction and behavioural problems related to video games, or even only of the efforts that millions of parents around the world make daily to drag their children away from video games and especially from t he more realistic and violent ones, we can get an idea of how irrelevant parents will find the knowledge that their kids are following the real rules of international humanitarian law while playing at war».

One of the video games in which the ICRC was able to introduce the “rules of war” is classified by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) of the United States as “suitable to people aged 17 years or over” because it contains “scenes of blood, strong language and intense violence”.

OPAL, while recognizing that education for peace an d nonviolence is not among the statutory objectives of the International Red Cross, points out that an international humanitarian organization should not ignore the widespread efforts to prevent the development of instruments such as video games, which foster and promote – albeit in virtual form – the use of violence, the trivialization of suffering and the neglect of humanitarian principles and values. 6

As ICRC explains in its statement, “some of these games are being designed and produced by the same companies developing simulated battlefields for the training of armed forces where the laws of armed conflict are a necessary ingredient”.

"Those of us – adds Rosalba Panaro , a former teacher and member of the Executive Board of OPAL – who are actively engaged in promoting peace education in schools, and with youth in general, know that the greatest effort today is to get young people to overcome that kind of virtual and aseptic perception of war that video games induce. Day after day it becomes more difficult to make young people understand that for millions of people war is a dreadful reality of death and suffering, and not a video game that one can start over just by pressing the restart button».

Even more incomprehensible – adds the note by OPAL – is the ICRC concern for the potential impact on sales, actually for the “commercial success” of vid eo games that have introduced the rules of war. «A concern – comments Carlo Tombola , Scientific Coordinator of OPAL – which we do not understand at all. It would instead be relevant to hear the views of the thousands of volunteers of the Red Cross on the ent ire operation that is already in place, even though it was not approved any resolution on the subject duri ng the last International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent".

"It would be especially important to know from ICRC – concludes Mimmo Cortese , a member of the Scientific Committees of OPAL – when was the last time that military forces, including those of the United Nations, fully observed the Geneva Conventions and the International Humanitarian Law in an armed conflict, those laws that the Red Cross seems eager now to introduce into video games. It would perhaps be more significant for the International Committee of the Red Cross to concentrate on addressing the reality of conflicts once again, since, as everybody unfortunately can see, wars today not only do not seem to be decreasing, but are instead becoming increasingly barbaric".

OPAL will send its comments to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva and to the Rome headquarters of the Italian Red Cross. OPAL is of course available to engage further in debate on such a sensitive issue, one of great social relevance. OPAL will devote a chapter of its next Yearbook to the theme of war video games.

1 See the press release published on 27th September on the website of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): “Video games and law of war”. The summary reports: “The ICRC has started working with video game developers, so that video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers” . The press release furthermore states: “We would like to see the law of armed conflict integrated into the games so that players have a realistic experience and deal first hand with the dilemmas facing real combatants on real battlefields” . The press release is available on ICRC website: www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/film/2013/09-28-ihl-video-games.htm

 

2 In an interview to the BBC News, Red Cross spokesperson, François Sénéchaud, says: “Video games that are representing battlefields... are very close to reality and actually it's very difficult to [tell] the difference between real footage and the footage you can get from video games. We are arguing that we have to get even closer to reality and we also have to include the rules of conflict [as well]”. The original interview “Should the rules of war be included in computer games?” is available in: www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24318061 . The transcript of the Red Cross spokesperson statement is available in: “Games should honour the "rules of conflict - says Red Cross” in: www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-10-02-games-should-honour-the-rules-of-conflict-says-red-cross

 

3 See: “Beyond the Call of Duty: why shouldn’t videogame players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers?” , in International Review of the Red Cross, Vol 94, N umber 886, available at: www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/article/review-2012/irrc-886-clarke-rouffaer-senechaud.htm .

 

4 Ben Clarke et al., “Viewing the world through “blood-red tinted glasses. The hostile expectation bias mediates the link between violent video game exposure and aggression” in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology , Vol. 48, Issue 4, July 2012, pp. 953–956 in: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103112000029 . A presentation in Italian of the research can be found in: M. Morgese , “Gli effetti a lungo termine dei videogames violent i”, in “State of Mind. Il Giornale delle Scienze Psicologiche”: www.stateofmind.it/2013/01/effetti-videogames-violenti .

 

5 See the conclusion of the section dedicated to “Video games and violent behaviour”, p. 717, quoted at footnote 3.

 

6 The ICRC’s “Mission Statement” states that: “The ICRC also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles ”. See: “The ICRC's Mission Statement” in: www.icrc.org/eng/who-we-are/mandate/overview-icrc-mandate-mission.htm .

Source: http://opalbrescia.altervista.org/sites/default/files/stampa/2013/Comunicati/OPAL_Press_Release_EN_22.10.2013.pdf

 


 

The Permanent Observatory on Small Arms, Security and Defence Policies (OPAL) is a non-profit organization based in Brescia (Italy) founded in 2004 by various national and local associations (College of African Missions of the Comboni Missionaries, Association Brescia Solidarity, Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Brescia, Diocesan Mission Office of the Diocese of Brescia, Association for the Embassy of Local Democracy Zavidovici, the Territorial Chamber of Labour in Brescia, Pax Christi, Xaverian Centre of Missionary Animation of Xaverian Missionaries, International Voluntary Service -SVI) and by private individuals to promote peace culture and to provide civil society with scientific information about the production and trade of “small arms” and about the legislative activity in the sector. OPAL is a place of independent scientific research, monitoring, analysis and information to the public , at national and international level, on the production and export of “small arms and light weapons” made in Lombardy, but with attention also to the national territory and Europe. Member of the Italian Disarmam ent Network (Rete Italiana per il Disarmo), in recent years the Centre has promoted several film festivals in Brescia on the issues of arms trafficking, international migrations, peace and nonviolence and it has supported playwright and theatre plays against the “gun culture” and war and courses ands lessons in schools on peace education.

 


 

Video games and law of war

27-09-2013

War packaged for recreational consumption enthrals children and adults worldwide. For the military, these "electronic first-person shooter games" offer a great resource to adapt for training. The ICRC has started working with video game developers, so that video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers.

Video games get real


War packaged for recreational consumption enthrals children and adults worldwide. For the military, these "electronic first-person shooter games" offer a great resource to adapt for training. The ICRC has started working with video game developers, so that video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers.

International humanitarian law and video games: questions and answers


The ICRC believes there is a place for international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) in video games. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has publicly stated its interest in  the implications of video games that simulate real-war situations and the opportunities such games present for spreading knowledge of the law of armed conflict.   The rules on the use of force in armed conflict should be applied to video games that portray realistic battlefield scenes, in the same way that the laws of physics are applied.

What exactly does the ICRC want to see in these video games?

The ICRC is suggesting that as in real life, these games should include virtual consequences for people's actions and decisions.  Gamers should be rewarded for respecting the law of armed conflict and there should be virtual penalties for serious violations of the law of armed conflict, in other words war crimes.  This already exists in several conflict simulation games. Game scenarios should not reward players for actions that in real life would be considered war crimes.

The ICRC is concerned that certain game scenarios could lead to a trivialization of serious violations of the law of armed conflict. The fear is that eventually such illegal acts will be perceived as acceptable behaviour. However the ICRC is not involved in the debate about the level of violence in video games.

What are some of the violations of the law of armed conflict that are of particular concern?

The ICRC is concerned about scenarios that, for instance, depict the use of torture, particularly in interrogation, deliberate attacks on civilians, the killing of prisoners or the wounded, attacks on medical personnel, facilities, and transport such as ambulances, or that anyone on the battlefield can be killed.

Should video games be prohibited from depicting such acts?

Sanitizing video games of such acts is not realistic.  Violations occur on real battlefields and can therefore be included in video games. The ICRC believes it is useful for players to learn from rewards and punishments incorporated into the game, about what is acceptable and what is prohibited in war.

Does this also apply to more fantasy oriented war games?


The ICRC is interested in issues relating to video games simulating warfare because players can face choices just like on a real battlefield.

States are obliged to respect and ensure respect for the law of armed conflict and to make its rules known as widely as possible at all times. In real life, armed forces are subject to the laws of armed conflict. 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. In fact some video games already take into account how real-life military personnel are trained to behave in conflict situations.

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.

Does the ICRC work with video-game developers to make sure the law of armed conflict is accurately reflected in certain games?


The ICRC is working with video game developers to help them accurately incorporate the laws of armed conflict in their games.  It welcomes the fact that certain video games on war-related themes already take the law of armed conflict into account. The ICRC has expressed its readiness to engage in a dialogue with the video game industry in order to explore the place of humanitarian rules in games.

Won't this make the games preachy or boring?

Our intention is not to spoil player's enjoyment by for example, interrupting the game with pop-up messages listing legal provisions or lecturing gamers on the law of armed conflict.  We would like to see the law of armed conflict integrated into the games so that players have a realistic experience and deal first hand with the dilemmas facing real combatants on real battlefields.   The strong sales of new releases that have done this prove that integrating the law of armed conflict does not undermine the commercial success of the games.

Shouldn't the ICRC be primarily concerned with real-life warfare?

Absolutely, and real-life armed conflict and its humanitarian consequences are in fact its primary concern.

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 armed 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 encourage respect for the dignity of people affected by war.

With their ever increasing popularity, video games can have a strong influence on what young people, future recruits and societies in general perceive as acceptable or prohibited in situations of armed conflict. That is why the ICRC also follows developments in the industry, particularly with games simulating real-life armed conflict.
Why does the ICRC show interest in video games but not, for example, in books, comics, TV series or films?

The ICRC is occasionally approached by filmmakers or authors who want to portray its activities in past or present armed conflicts. It has thus had contacts with various segments of the entertainment world beyond the developers of video games. But video games represent an unprecedented novelty. Unlike traditional media such as movies, they require players to make active decisions, for example to use or refrain from using force.

Again, the ICRC is not interested in all video games – only in those simulating real-life armed conflict. Some of these games are being designed and produced by the same companies developing simulated battlefields for the training of armed forces where the law of armed conflict are a necessary ingredient.
What was said on this subject at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent?

The 31st International Conference met in November 2011 in Geneva with the overall objective of strengthening international humanitarian law and humanitarian action. In a side event, participants also explored the role that the law of armed conflict plays, or does not play, in simulations of war. They considered various ways in which the rules applicable in armed conflict could feature in simulations. The side event was an informal discussion; no resolution or plan of action was adopted.

Document: Beyond the Call of Duty: why shouldn’t video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers? (PDF)

Source: http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/film/2013/09-28-ihl-video-games.htm

###

Subscribe to NNOMY Newsletter

NNOMYnews reports on the growing intrusions by the Department of Defense into our public schools in a campaign to normalize perpetual wars with our youth and to promote the recruitment efforts of the Pentagon.

CLICK HERE

Search Articles

Registered User Login

Registered users have access to article and category indexes, document downloads and research links. Utilize your user menu to access these resources. If you do not have an account, you must SIGN UP first.

Welcome. You now have access to download documents that are only available to registered users.

Language

Donate to NNOMY

Your donation to NNOMY works to balance the military's message in our public schools. Our national network of activists go into schools and inform youth considering military service the risks about military service that recruiters leave out.

CONTRIBUTE