The International Committee of the Red Cross is examining war games and whether they violate the Geneva Conventions (international rules established in 1949 that protect victims of wars). The Conventions dictate, among other things, that prisoners of war, wounded or sick fighters, civilians, and medical or religious personnel be treated with dignity and not be made subject to torture or other forms of excessive violence. They're, uh, pretty important.
But should they apply to video games? That's what the Red Cross Committee is discussing during the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland this week. Obviously the people in video games aren't real—but should game developers be responsible for the way their virtual soldiers act in times of war? Depending on what decision the Committee reaches, they may ask game developers to create responsible scenarios—or even begin petitioning governments to regulate what developers can portray in war games.
This raises a ton of issues, though. What about non-war games? Why should Battlefield 3 players be subject to international law when Niko Bellic's crimes in Grand Theft Auto go unpunished day after day? What about Modern Warfare games in which a mission must be restarted if the player shoots a civilian? Is that punishment too "video-gamey" to be considered an application of the Geneva Conventions? We're going to keep one ear to the ground on this one and see how it plays out.