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Red Cross: War crimes in video games should be punished

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While you typically play a hero in military shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield, some of your actions aren't exactly heroic. You've likely partaken in more than a few actions that international law would frown upon, to put it mildly.

If so, the Red Cross wants a fitting in-game punishment for your crimes.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is calling on game publishers to penalize players who violate real-world international war conventions. But before you start complaining about "censorship" or "overreaction," the Red Cross wants to make it clear that they're not looking for these moments to ripped out of games.

"We're not asking for censorship, we don't want to take any elements out of the games," said spokesperson Bernard Barrett. "We're not trying to make games boring or preachy, but we’re hoping that the ones that offer a realistic portrayal of a modern battlefield can incorporate some sort of reward or penalties depending on whether they follow the basic rules of armed conflict."

The Red Cross in concerned that some game situations can trivialize violations of the Geneva Convention. And it worries that in doing so, it could open the door for those actions to be considered acceptable on the battlefield.

Among the areas of concern: Torture sequences, shooting civilians and killing prisoners.

Barrett also noted that the agency's concern was focused on games that mimic contemporary armed conflicts, though he stopped short of naming the obvious candidates: Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Medal of Honor. Other genres, like fantasy games, weren't a focus, he added.

While the request might take some of the spontaneity out of modern action games, it could potentially give them bragging rights in the ongoing fight over which games is more true-to-life.

"It’s just making it more realistic, the same way the military has rules on the battlefield, then gamers have the same rules," says Barrett.

Of course, previous studies have yet to determine a causal link between in-game and real-world violence, which could derail the Red Cross's argument. Observers are keeping a close eye on a study by the CDC, however, as the issue continues to simmer on the political radar.

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