Red Cross wants war crimes charges in video games
If you’ve ever played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, you know about the level “No Russian,” in which the player goes undercover as “Alexei Borodin,” an American soldier who has infiltrated a Russian nationalist terrorist group.
In this level, the user joins the nationalists, led by antagonist Vladimir Makarov, in a massacre of innocent civilians at an airport in Moscow. It’s an important part of the game’s plot, as it sparks a war between the United States and Russia. The user can, of course, go through the level without shooting any of the fictional characters. The plot would remain the same, regardless.
But the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wants video game companies to subject players to war crimes in the games if they commit illegal acts or kill innocent people:
The International Committee of the Red Cross have called for video games to punish crimes committed in battle by adhering to real-life international war conventions.
“The ICRC believes there is a place for international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) in video games,” the organization that works worldwide to provide humanitarian help for people caught in war zones said in a statement on their website.
“The ICRC is concerned that certain game scenarios could lead to a trivialization of serious violations of the law of armed conflict,” they added. “The fear is that eventually such illegal acts will be perceived as acceptable behavior.”
Bernard Barrett, a spokesman for the organization said they were not trying to censor games or spoil people’s fun, but rather, “make clear that there are rules in battle and that certain acts are illegal.”
STAAAAAHP. IT’S A FREAKIN’ VIDEO GAME!!!
You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
In many games, including Call of Duty, players are penalized if they kill an innocent person outside of the key plot of the game, a lesson this author has learned many times when trying to get through Modern Warfare 2’s level, “The Hornet’s Nest.” You’re warned, and you start over from the previously saved location. It teaches the user quickly that they have to distinguish between civilians and their actual targets.
Though the ICRC insists that they aren’t trying to censor games, this another part of the crusade against violent video games, which has recently ramped up again in the wake of the Washington Navy Yard shooting. The shooter was allegedly obsessed with violent games.
The good news is that the push to censor video games in the wake of tragic shootings faces a very high hurdle. The Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association that video games are a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. Justices even had the chance to play some of the violent video games that were in question before the decision in the case.
The annoyance is that there will always be people who complain about these games, regardless of age recommendations or labels warning of graphic content.
There will always be some amount of excess that comes with freedom, whether it’s someone saying something or producing a product that a certain group finds distasteful, another person owning enough guns to arm a small nation, or someone who has made billions of dollars by supplying a demand on the market.
Of course we harshly punish those who infringe on the freedoms of others — that goes without question. But excess isn’t a bad thing. Just because someone or a group of people is offended by that excess isn’t a reason to curtail or regulate our freedoms. It’s a byproduct of the freedoms we enjoy.