Gaming War Crimes?

I’m at something of an impasse at the moment.  The government shutdown means that a lot of the relevant generators of new legal news (courts, government agencies, and so on) are currently shuttered.  The lack of actual IP news means that I’ve decided to focus on an infinitely sillier issue than the statute of limitations: video game war crimes.

The International Red Cross feels that games that simulate war should also simulate the legal consequences of doing terrible (and illegal) actions as a soldier.  There is a noble aspect to this push, even if it completely disregards why a lot of people play games to begin with (to indulge in fantasies without real-world consequences).  Originally, the International Red Cross was going to push for a legal requirement to address these issues in games.  However, such a law would likely not survive First Amendment scrutiny in the United States (since the government is more or less barred from telling the entertainment industry what they can and cannot put in their content).  The International Red Cross has since opted to serve as an adviser, and ask developers to incorporate consequences for war crimes through less coercive means (such as simply asking).   

There is also a practical concern to applying International Humanitarian Law in games.  Sitting through a war crimes trial for killing entire battalions in Call of Duty or dropping nukes in Civilization would likely make the games less fun (though Civilization does have consequences for committing war crimes, in that you’ve earned the wrath of the other players).  Ultimately, that’s what gamers care about and why (for non-legal reasons) this move is a non-starter.


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