bit-gamer.net

Games criticised for portrayal of war crimes

Games criticised for portrayal of war crimes

Modern Warfare 2 and Army of Two were singled out by human rights groups for depicting war crimes.

Human rights groups in Switzerland have criticised the games industry for frequently flaunting international law and depicting inhuman war crimes without properly exploring the consequences of such actions today.

The research was done by Swiss organisation TRIAL and youth rights advocate Pro Juventute Switzerland and involved specialists in humanitarian law taking a look at more than twenty shooters, including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Army of Two, 24: The Game and Far Cry 2 as part of a new study.

The lawyers focused their complaints on the fact that games rarely explore the consequences of depicted atrocities. Apparently Army of Two's Salem and Rios would "be tried for their mere participation in hostilities, as mercenaries are counted as civilians". Battlefield: Bad Company was slammed for depicting wanton destruction of civilian property.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare took a tongue-lashing for depicting torture and execution of political prisoners, but was praised for causing players to fail a mission if they fire upon the church in the AC130 bombing mission.

The study goes on to wonder whether games can change a players perception of "what combat situations are like and what the role of the military and of individual soldiers or law enforcement officials in such situations, is". It's also claimed that games have a "dangerous tendency to step back from what has been achieved in the field of human rights in the last 60 years".

[We] call upon game producers to consequently and creatively incorporate rules of international humanitarian law and human rights into their games,” says the study (via BBC).

You can imagine our thoughts, which line up nicely with quotes from RPS' John Walker in the same article that games are treated in an odd way and that no such petitions would ever seriously be levelled at other forms of mass media. Let us know your own thoughts in the forums.

44 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Cerberus90 24th November 2009, 12:18 Quote
oh for gods sake. Just piss off, its a game, and if the person playing it can't realise that then thats the players fault not the games.
scawp 24th November 2009, 12:37 Quote
“[We] call upon game producers to consequently and creatively incorporate rules of international humanitarian law and human rights into their games,”

So if, let say I'm playing call of duty and "accidentally" blow a civy's head off, instead of it fading to black and restarting the mission, I'll instead be court marshaled and put in a military prison and have to wait 6 years before been able to restart the game???
Veles 24th November 2009, 12:46 Quote
Because TV and Film don't do exactly the same thing.
knowle rohrer 24th November 2009, 12:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by scawp
“[We] call upon game producers to consequently and creatively incorporate rules of international humanitarian law and human rights into their games,”

So if, let say I'm playing call of duty and "accidentally" blow a civy's head off, instead of it fading to black and restarting the mission, I'll instead be court marshaled and put in a military prison and have to wait 6 years before been able to restart the game???

that has made my day :D
DragunovHUN 24th November 2009, 13:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by scawp

So if, let say I'm playing call of duty and "accidentally" blow a civy's head off, instead of it fading to black and restarting the mission, I'll instead be court marshaled and put in a military prison and have to wait 6 years before been able to restart the game???

That actually happens in America's Army.
Paradigm Shifter 24th November 2009, 13:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Veles
Because TV and Film don't do exactly the same thing.

This says it all really. Double standards abound. Again.
pimlicosound 24th November 2009, 13:13 Quote
I don't think many people play these games and assume that the depiction of war is either accurate or ethically correct. Indeed, I think the whole point is that they are not depicting clean, legal form of war. Players know that what they are seeing and doing is "on the edge" of legality and morality, or even beyond: that's what makes them particularly interesting, unsettling and worthy of serious discussion. Would COD4 have been so powerful had Captain Price hauled Al-Asad before the Hague rather than shooting him point-blank in the face?

Also, I think Trial and Pro Juvenile are confusing "depicting war crimes" with "advocating war crimes". I think games like COD and Far Cry 2 subtly (or not so subtly if you count Modern Warfare 2) weave narratives that raise murky moral questions, like the value of one life next to thousands, ends versus means and so on, without declaring one or other side to be right. The developers and publishers have confidence that gamers are intelligent enough to reach their own conclusions. Why do these charities assume that we're all idiots?
Radical_Monkey 24th November 2009, 13:16 Quote
In the original article they called Modern Warfare 2 Call of Duty 5. Just shows what they know.... Video game bashing is never going to end. Eventually they'll say we should only play games that emulate their ideal reality. Probably a world where we all hold hands wearing ponchos and with flowers in our hairs singing songs.

Its entertainment. It not real for a reason, dont they get that? I play games and blow **** up in a game because i cant do it in real life. Just a bunch of winy muppets with too much time on their hands. Let them try and make a game thats 100% accurate to reality and see how much it sells. In fact I hope they do and spend all the money they have and lose it all so they can have more important things to think about than bashing games all the time.
chicorasia 24th November 2009, 13:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by pimlicosound
Also, I think Trial and Pro Juvenile are confusing "depicting war crimes" with "advocating war crimes".

Exactly. If such war crimes happen (and I assume they do), depicting them in mass media could be positive as long as they are properly discussed. Why not use these situations and their interactive depictions as theme for school debate on human rights and war crimes, instead of simply demonizing them?
Landy_Ed 24th November 2009, 13:40 Quote
I think what's flawed in the study is the emphasis placed. There's a difference between depicting a war crime and having the player take part in that act. The scenes in COD 4 clearly show them as crimes, or at least as "very bad things", it would be counterproductive to precede or follow those scenes with the articles from the geneva convention in detail that are being broken as the audience is not playing a game to conciously learn. The basis of that game is that you play on the side of the "good guys".

MW2, to carry the theme through, has a fairly clear level after the airport scene (which at least opens with some caveats, you *know* you're doing something bad for the greater good and later stages also reinforce that it was a bad instruction) - shooting with the expressed intention to maim followed by torture, my interpretation is that this would be a more valid point, if more subtle, to present.

The accidental killing of a non-combatant is not automatically a war-crime & dependent upon the circumstances may not automatically culminate in either the dismissal or inprisonment of the soldier who fired the weapon.
javaman 24th November 2009, 13:43 Quote
Hurrah for political correctness. TBH If they want 100% realism, the user should die if they die in game. The easiest way round this is to let the player play as North Korea or something, where human rights are laughted at. In that case you would fail the mission for not bombing the church.

age old saying, "alls fair in love and war"
mikeuk2004 24th November 2009, 13:46 Quote
Whats next human rights in films?
Phil Rhodes 24th November 2009, 13:58 Quote
Quote:
be tried for their mere participation in hostilities, as mercenaries are counted as civilians

Ye-esss, this is the sort of thinking that allows Guantanamo Bay to happen.
liratheal 24th November 2009, 14:08 Quote
... It's the Beeb.

They sensationalise pretty much every tech story they write. Badly.
Unknownsock 24th November 2009, 14:30 Quote
Aren't the whole point of games to explore espects of life and experiences of what aren't achievable?
Be it morally or un-ethically.
reaper1984 24th November 2009, 14:59 Quote
Reductio Ad Absurdum

Human rights groups in Switzerland have criticised playwright William Shakespeare for frequently flaunting international law and depicting inhuman war crimes without properly exploring the consequences of such actions in 1602.

The research was done by Swiss organisation TRIAL and youth rights advocate Pro Juventute Switzerland and involved specialists in humanitarian law taking a look at more than twenty plays, including Henry V, Macbeth, King Lear and Romeo & Juliet as part of a new study.

The lawyers focused their complaints on the fact that plays rarely explore the consequences of depicted atrocities. Apparently Henvey V would "be tried for butchering french captives". Macbeth was slammed for depicting wanton destruction of the natural landscape.

The study goes on to wonder whether plays can change a viewers perception of "what combat situations are like and what the role of the military and of individual soldiers or law enforcement officials in such situations, is". It's also claimed that plays have a "dangerous tendency to step back from what has been achieved in the field of human rights in the last 60 years".

“[We] call upon Shakespeare and all playwrights to consequently and creatively incorporate rules of international humanitarian law and human rights into their plays,” says the study (via BBC).
pimlicosound 24th November 2009, 15:02 Quote
I've just realised something: Pro Juvenile is a youth rights advocate, but most of the games they're complaining about are rated 18 by the BBFC. They're talking about protecting children from misleading impressions of war, but these games aren't intended for children. They're intended for adults who can understand what they're playing.
Passarinhuu 24th November 2009, 15:10 Quote
Am I the only one who thinks this guys should get a proper job? Don't know, like actually fighting for the human rights in real war zones?
I'ts a game! It is supposed to be fun and entertaining...
Dave Lister 24th November 2009, 15:22 Quote
Worse can be seen in films, and the better technology gets the more realistic images on the screen will be, obviously ! Trouble is i think these people that complain about computer games still believe games all look like super mario bros 3 and the main age group is something like 6-15.

They just don't recognise that a lot of adults play games now and the people who make the games are just trying to give the customers what they want.
Molajoku 24th November 2009, 16:10 Quote
Surely if these games are in trouble for depicting war crimes against humanity then most books on....well practically any war you can think of really, should be in trouble for exactly the same thing?
StevieC 24th November 2009, 16:24 Quote
A while ago I had a similar discussion with my mother, about the Grand Theft Auto series, and whether it was any more or less excusable for depicting criminal activity than movies of similar explicitness like Scarface, Goodfellas, or The Godfather series. Now I don't play, let alone enjoy those games, but I understand why some might enjoy them. My mother argues that unlike movies or books, the games put the player in the position of directly participating or even initiating the actions in question with regard to what happens on screen, and my mom argues that by actively involving action on the part of the player, that makes such things more objectionable in video games than it would be in movies or books. While I did admit she had a point, I also argued that the existence of such games provided a place that those violent instincts could be vented without doing real-world damage to the lives and livelihoods of one's fellow human beings. Now I have a weak stomach and even seeing a small amount of blood-and-guts violence makes me queasy, but I still enjoy some games that are rather violent, like combat flight-simulators, and rail-shooters like Ikaruga and Radiant SilverGun, and even a few games that involve swordfighting. In any case, I think there are cogent arguments on both sides. I have nothing against the portrayal of war crimes by a game unless said game is written as trying to glorify war crimes.
javaman 24th November 2009, 17:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by StevieC
I also argued that the existence of such games provided a place that those violent instincts could be vented without doing real-world damage to the lives

In some ways they have a point. In some games conquences can be good. For example fallout 3 with the karma based system. You have a choice in how you act. I actually take the moral high ground, but thats because im powerful and if someone doesnt like it tough luck on them. I just wish some missions might have more repurcussions. Blowing up megaton, you gotta shoot them in the head and tenpenny tower missions all linked together with your actions effecting the outcome of each other. Even the paradise falls missions of catching slaves is linked into 2 of these missions.

Although not perfect.......its getting there and games like mass effect, dragon age, and to a lesser extent oblivion all had some some sort of karma or different mission paths based on actions.
SMIFFYDUDE 24th November 2009, 18:01 Quote
All games should include the Lady of Pain from Planescape Torment. If you do any casual war criming you get a visit from her, and that'll learn yer.
dave_c 24th November 2009, 18:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cerberus90
oh for gods sake. Just piss off, its a game, and if the person playing it can't realise that then thats the players fault not the games.

+ rep
moshpit 24th November 2009, 19:19 Quote
Actually, while I expected to be pissed and offended about this, I think I actually like it! Commiting war crimes in game gets you in trouble in game! Freaking GREAT idea! It adds a bit of realism and grit that is one of the hardest parts of modern warfare for our soldiers today, Rules of Engagement. RoE's make real life warfare incredibly complicated for the grunt to interpret, and that's part of real combat. Any game attempting to simulate warfare should consider this angle as part of the gameplay.

So, while I was going to throw a fit about this, I think instead I'll give the Swiss the thumbs up for making a whiny fuss that could actually benefit gaming as a whole. More realism is what many combat sim fanatics are exactly looking for. RoE's add a level of stress to a mission that run and gun will never be able to match.
Star*Dagger 24th November 2009, 22:08 Quote
Maybe the Swiss should investigate the Church molesting young people. This is a REAL crime perpetrated by REAL people.
In addition, they could give back all the funds to the Holocaust survivors, which is now hundreds of billions of Euros.
Just making sure we put things in perspective and prioritize things. That said, any reason to attack MW2 is a good one, since it is a pile of steaming crap without enduring multiplayer and a 15 minute campaign.
Real FPS players are playing Shattered Horizon!

Yours in Priority and Perspective Plasma,
Star¤Dagger

P.S. Here is a shoutout to the guy in SH who knew me from here in the forums.
DazzMan71 25th November 2009, 02:06 Quote
I don't need a Human rights groups in Switzerland to tell me about the horrors of War, and how it destroys lives, I read about the consequences of it everyday whilst the British Army and its allies fight in Afghanistan.

I've been playing computer games for more than 20 years, and in all that time, I've never invaded another country, committed genocide, or participated in a War crime :) Maybe these sanctimonious and morally superior people should climb down from their ivory towers and fly to China and try to convince them to change their Human right laws, but I guess that would mean they would have to put their own Human rights at risk, better to stay in Switzerland where it's safe, and keep laundering money, and let someone else do all the risky stuff and stay "neutral" like they did in the Second World War.
steleet 25th November 2009, 05:43 Quote
Killing in a video game is fun. Dieing in a video game is frustrating.
Killing in reality pretty much sucks. Dieing in reality your pretty much ****ed
sub routine 25th November 2009, 07:38 Quote
blah blah, its ok in books and films ??
Ending Credits 25th November 2009, 08:46 Quote
Is it me or doesn't the guy die at the end of the mission? :|

I'd say that's at least some punisment.

And there are war crimes in FC2?
null_x86 25th November 2009, 09:21 Quote
anyone who gets influenced by a game, tv show or film and makes a violent act, is at fault for their actions. No one made them do it, they chose to do so.
perplekks45 25th November 2009, 11:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by pimlicosound
I don't think ... war is ... ethically correct.
Fixed that for you. ;)
pimlicosound 25th November 2009, 12:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by perplekks45
Quote:
Originally Posted by pimlicosound
I don't think ... war is ... ethically correct.
Fixed that for you. ;)

And the award for gross over-simplification goes to...

@Ending Credits: Yes, there are numerous war crimes in FC2. Here are some examples:

Mercenaries (illegal)
Illegal arms trading
Political assassination
Lack of recognisable uniforms
Displacement of non-combatants
TeeJayUK 26th November 2009, 05:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Radical_Monkey
In the original article they called Modern Warfare 2 Call of Duty 5.
In the report the two CoD games they reviewed are referred to as:

"Call of Duty 4 (Modern Warfare)"
"Call of Duty 5 (World at War)"

CoD4:MW2 was not reviewed.
TeeJayUK 26th November 2009, 05:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DazzMan71
I don't need a Human rights groups in Switzerland to tell me about the horrors of War, and how it destroys lives, I read about the consequences of it everyday whilst the British Army and its allies fight in Afghanistan.

I've been playing computer games for more than 20 years, and in all that time, I've never invaded another country, committed genocide, or participated in a War crime :) Maybe these sanctimonious and morally superior people should climb down from their ivory towers and fly to China and try to convince them to change their Human right laws, but I guess that would mean they would have to put their own Human rights at risk, better to stay in Switzerland where it's safe, and keep laundering money, and let someone else do all the risky stuff and stay "neutral" like they did in the Second World War.
Have you actually read the report itself?

After gamers like you and I don't like it when people criticise games they have never even played.

Here's the link: http://www.trial-ch.org/games/report.html (click on the picture of the front cover for the .pdf)

I have skimmed through it and it is well written and intelligent. I disagree with some of their arguments but they do have some decent points and interesting analysis on a game by game basis.

Just as I am interested in a game journalist or fan writing an essay about "sex in games", "women in games" or "racism in games", or just like I am interested in hearing from a professional soldier about how realistic a war game's tactics or weapons are ...

...in the same way I am interested, as a gamer in hearing what IHRL lawyers have to say about how it is treated in various games. This has never been done methodically before although (of course there have been endless amateur posts on gaming forums about brutality, war crimes right and wrong in games etc.) It is interesting to see what professional specialists say.

The report doesn't call for anything to be banned. The comment about videogames being different is not a central part of their argument - they could easily have done similar reports for movies, TV or even news reporting. They don't claim that playing games makes people violent. They are not calling for games to not be violent or criminal.

The main point they raise which I think is useful is that games which *seem* realistic in other respects are actually misleading in how they depict IHRL or the concept is actually abscent.

While in GTA games you play as a criminal it is made clear that you are committing crimes (eg the police chase you). However in some war games it is not made clear that some of your actions are war games.

When do people actually learn about what is and isn't a war crime? Is it in GCSE history between the age of 11 and 16, and from BBC documentaries? I'd argue that many (if not most) people are exposed to far more hours of 'conflict scenarios' via videogames - and also via movies etc. Movies tend to be passive and don't require decision making, nor are they typically structured as mission>action>reward/punishment etc. It's true however that a lot of action movies do actually embody various values and 'norms', painting a picture of how combat is fought, and what is right/wrong, legal/illegal, justified/unjustified. They don't always get it right - sometimes they paint a very unrealistic picture.

I want there to be at least some games that are crazy, stupid, evil, nasty, unlimited - but if a game is pretending to be realistic, and if it does decide to depict war crimes, then I think it is fair to suggest that (like in GTA) people are made aware that it is a war crime. Developers are still free to make their games how they want, and we are all free to critique games and suggest how they would be better. That's what this report does.
TeeJayUK 26th November 2009, 05:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by pimlicosound
And the award for gross over-simplification goes to...

@Ending Credits: Yes, there are numerous war crimes in FC2. Here are some examples:

Mercenaries (illegal)
Illegal arms trading
Political assassination
Lack of recognisable uniforms
Displacement of non-combatants
None of these things is specifically mentioned in the report (see pages 28 & 29 http://trial-ch.org/fileadmin/user_upload/documents/Evenements_et_manifestations/Playing_by_the_Rule.pdf )

Also, discussion of mercenaries: page 17
pimlicosound 26th November 2009, 18:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TeeJayUK
Have you actually read the report itself?

I had a good read through a few of the chapters. Their analysis is mostly okay (barring a few instances where they clearly got mixed up about what was happening in a game), but they do draw a few extreme conclusions.

For example, citing the execution of civilians in COD4 and RS: Vegas 2, they recommend that such scenes should not be depicted in video games. They are effectively recommending censorship here, presumably on the grounds that players are not mature enough to understand that what they are seeing is wrong.
Orothe 27th November 2009, 06:03 Quote
“[We] call upon game producers to consequently and creatively incorporate rules of international humanitarian law and human rights into their games,”

Isn't that pretty much saying "Make games more realistically, and take out the fun! But, add the realistic rules in a creative way." >.> Woooooow.. Demanding. >.>

Yeah, I agree, double standards. I laugh at these kind of reports. Just shows how shallow minded they are. XD
The_Beast 27th November 2009, 07:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by scawp
“[We] call upon game producers to consequently and creatively incorporate rules of international humanitarian law and human rights into their games,”

So if, let say I'm playing call of duty and "accidentally" blow a civy's head off, instead of it fading to black and restarting the mission, I'll instead be court marshaled and put in a military prison and have to wait 6 years before been able to restart the game???

that made my day
ph1009 1st December 2009, 04:08 Quote
Hi,
That is so nice collection.Well after finding your this comment there is no need for any book reading search of last few years.I like your idea for distributing the books by years.Thats so nice attempts with links.Please continue this type of activity.Thank you for sharing such a nice comment. ans sources..
------------------------------------
Life is too short to be serious, laugh it up
knuck 1st December 2009, 04:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ph1009
Hi,
That is so nice collection.Well after finding your this comment there is no need for any book reading search of last few years.I like your idea for distributing the books by years.Thats so nice attempts with links.Please continue this type of activity.Thank you for sharing such a nice comment. ans sources..
------------------------------------
Life is too short to be serious, laugh it up


allow me to say: wat ?
Horizon 1st December 2009, 05:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghys
allow me to say: wat ?

but you have to agree that is a bar-setting first post.
adidan 1st December 2009, 15:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Horizon
but you have to agree that is a bar-setting first post.
I think it looks more like a bot-setting first post.
knuck 1st December 2009, 17:30 Quote
time for a forum update ?
Log in

You are not logged in, please login with your forum account below. If you don't already have an account please register to start contributing.



Discuss in the forums