War crimes in games are astonishing

Human rights groups are calling upon developers and publisher to address the way war crimes are portrayed in video games.

Swiss organisations Trial and Projeventute carried out a study to see if conflicts portrayed in games – and the players’ actions in these situations – broke humanitarian laws that define war crimes.

The groups analysed over 20 games, including Army Of Two, Battlefield Bad Company, COD4: Modern Warfare, Far Cry 2 and Rainbow Six: Vegas, according to the BBC.

While the study acknowledged some games punish the killing of civilians and reward players that minimise the damage of each conflict, it condemned those that let gamers kill innocent people, torture captives and destroy homes and buildings.

The practically complete absence of rules or sanctions is… astonishing,” the study said, adding that these titles were sending an erroneous” message by depicting conflicts and counter-terrorist operations without limits or consequences for misconduct and war crimes.

The authors said: [We] call upon game producers to consequently and creatively incorporate rules of international humanitarian law and human rights into their games.”

However, they added that they do not necessarily wish for games to become less violent. It claimed that, while most players are unlikely to become real world combatants, such games could influence what people believe war is like and how real soldiers conduct themselves.

Rock Paper Shotgun’s Jim Rossignol countered the study, saying: Whether or not the rules of war are included in the game should be based entirely on whether that improves the experience for the player.”

He added that there was plenty of evidence to show that gamers fully process” virtual violence as fantasy. He also cited studies of soldiers in Iraq who reported being a gamer had not desensitised them to the atrocities of war.

Perhaps what this research demonstrates is that the researchers misunderstand what games are, and how they are treated, intellectually, by the people who play them.”

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