What. The. Fuck.
Earlier I clicked on a link titled “Six hundred million gamers could be war criminals, Red Cross says“. I was a little surprised at not seeing the Onion logo in the corner. A little Googling came up with other headlines that screamed the burning questions “Are there 600 million virtual war criminals?” and “Could Playing Videogames Be a War Crime?” For fuck’s sake, people. The Red Cross didn’t say anything equating gamers with war criminals. In fact, all they said was that they were concerned that video games were teaching people the wrong way to handle combat situations. Well, no shit. Anyone that has tried jumping up and down in one spot while firing their assault rifle finds out how quickly that does not translate into an effective real-world tactic.
Sure, they also mentioned petitioning governments to create laws that limit video game violence into their narrow standard, but you know what? Political organizations have been trying that shit for decades and it still hasn’t worked (except maybe in parts of Australia, I guess). This is nothing new! Haven’t you ever heard of Jack “Fucktard” Thompson, for chrissake?
Do gamers actually think the Red Cross has enough clout to make our governments change every war game from now on to conform to the Geneva and Hague Conventions? Bitch, please. Don’t get me wrong. I have mad respect for the Red Cross. They do great humanitarian work, and maybe that’s the source of their naivete. But these are the same people that kept bringing food into Somalia and having it taken at gunpoint by Somali warlords. The Red Cross was like, “Dude, you’re being a bit of a dick,” and the Somali warlords were like, “Yeah? So?”–which is my point exactly.
Here’s why I think it’s a little silly to force players to follow the International Laws of Warfare in video games:
(1) I would say nearly half of all war games take place in World War II. Most of the rules that they want implemented were ratified at conventions after WWII. It would be an anachronism and unrealistic to have them in effect in the time period in which these games take place. And let’s not even get started on the fantasy/sci-fi games where the milieu doesn’t even take place on our world (or our actual timeline).
(2) Most people that play military-themed games in America never step foot into a recruiting office (much to the chagrin of the makers of America’s Army), so it’s a moot point to force-feed them rules that only apply to the armed forces.
(3) Trust me when I say that soldiers get trained up on the laws of warfare. It is written into their Rules of Engagement. It is adhered to. I know video games make it look like all the military does is secret black ops and everyone has a license to kill anything that moves, but that is simply part of the power fantasy of the game. It has no relation to reality. For a look at what the military is really like, check out the video below:
Ultra-Realistic Modern Warfare Game Features Awaiting Orders, Repairing Trucks
Now here’s how I think incorporating these international laws could be a fantastic idea:
(1) If it’s done as a reward situation to make a game more challenging or to follow the “good guy” storyline in a game, that would be cool. Not for the run-and-gun type player, but it could prove interesting if provided as an option.
(2) There’s a lot of good situations in the Conventions that would make great plot material, as well as provide the thinnest veneer of an explanation as to why you’re doing something. You know those escort missions that are such a pain in the ass due to sub-intelligent AI? Well, escorting Enemy Prisoners of War to a collection point is part of the Geneva Convention.
(3) The added layer of strategy these Conventions bring to the table would increase the awesomeness factor of these games. Cool thing you probably didn’t know? Captured medics give medical aid to anyone that needs it. Imagine as a gamer checking to make sure you don’t shoot the enemy medic (the one with a red cross or red crescent armband) so that you can use him to heal up your team before the next mission. What if enemies could surrender (not like the Grunts in Halo, but a real surrender)? It would certainly be more realistic, and the opportunities for reward could be anything from some vague score to perhaps finding clues as to where a certain item is, what’s coming up in the next boss battle, etc. Yeah, captured intelligence is used as a deus ex machina sometimes to advance the plot of the game, but what if it was a choice that offered something more?
Anyway, I don’t understand why all the commotion over this. Gaming journalism is not going to gain any sort of credibility if it turns every quasi-negative statement about gaming into a series of hyperbolic questions. In a way, it’s like giving your entire team medicine at every stop along the Oregon Trail, whether they have Cholera or not. Kind of wasteful, and could do more harm than good. The Red Cross is not the Spanish Inquisition. They’re just another feel-good organization that is worried that video games are turning people into sociopathic monsters, and they are going to use rainbow beams and unicorn dreams to lobby for change in a multibillion-dollar industry. Good luck with that. As for being brought up on charges of war crimes, obviously it would be the video game character’s fault, not the player’s. Sure, “Soap” MacTavish may say that he was just following my commands, but that shit didn’t fly at Nuremberg, so it ain’t gonna fly here.