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There are two kinds of shooters. In one you kill everything. In the other you kill almost everything. And the Red Cross thinks It’s time to add consequences to the second type when it comes to war crimes.
The FPS (First-Person Shooter) was popularized by id Software’s Doom in December of 1993, and the tone of those first shooters was one of destroying everything on the screen. With Goldeneye 007’s introduction in 1997, we learned that shooting certain characters resulted in mission failure and we learned to be more careful with our shots.
And now, the International Committee of the Red Cross is calling game developers to take it another step further.
Shoot them and you fail your mission…even with a licence to kill.
In an open letter to the video game development community, the humanitarian institution is asking for players to be punished in-game for actions inconsistent with international war conventions, specifically the Geneva Conventions. Even better, they aren’t looking to censor events that break such laws, they are just seeker a game more in line with what a modern battlefield should look like under treaties signed by so many nations around the world. Specific examples would include punishment or reward for choosing whether to employ or abstain from using torture or execution on prisoners of war. The full readout is available here, on the International Committee of the Red Cross’ homepage and draw your own conclusions about whether this is a good or bad idea.
However, we believe it’s entirely possible this represents an opportunity to improve first-person shooters in a category other than graphics or multiplayer for the first time in over a decade.
Now imagine he’s a wartime non-combatant.
The best place to see this in action would be in more tactical shooters with multiple agents, like Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon. This kind of game already has you focusing on procedure, approach and hostage rescue. Adding to option to take prisoners would add an interesting dynamic to an already intense thinking-man’s shooter. Even games like CoD and Battlefield would benefit. These games usually have some kind of choice system built in that effects the storyline in some way. Having an uncooperative terrorist prisoner with useful knowledge can present an interesting choice to either uphold the law and risk another incident or to violate human rights and maybe save a few lives. Presented in the right way, this could be a very difficult moral choice for players.
Also, it’s entirely possible that new series of game could be released with this specific request in mind. As head of a PMC employed for wartime missions, your group could be bound to following wartime conventions as a belligerent nation would be. You manage your PMC from a business end (choosing mission based on difficulty, payout and troops needed) and from a combat end (carrying out the missions). Your company also has two alignment meters, one that reflects morality (taking protection and escort missions for good, taking assassination and abduction missions for evil) and one that reflects compliance with international law (proper treatment of prisoners and saving innocents for compliance, taking out innocents and using torture for non-compliance).
Basically, a better this…on second thought, a GOOD this.
Game developers are encouraged to use this idea as long as proper credit is given and a fair finder’s fee is negotiated! Also available for additional concept work!
The most important thing that could be accomplished through application of the Red Cross’ idea is education. Most players of CoD can distinguish between an M16 and an M4 by sight, identify the nationalities of SAS, Spetsnaz, Delta Force and GIGN special forces and probably identify and use military hand signals with some form of accuracy. This is something a game as well-researched and accurate as Call of Duty can teach. But imagine developers took the step the Red Cross is looking for. Players will begin to learn about international laws. With an educated fan base, developers can tell more complex stories about topics that will interest players. And anyone who’s spent time on a CoD multiplayer match knows a little education might be sorely needed.
Learned all my military info from this little gem.
We hope developers take this request to heart. Shooter games could use a little good press, considering most criminal activities nowadays are being linked to violent video games, regardless of evidence for or against such accusations. Imagine the headlines: Shooter Game Not All About Shooting; Violent and Illegal Actions Not Rewarded; Young Blogger from New York Wins Nobel Prize…
Maybe it’s an exaggeration, but a move like this, from a major publisher known for great games, could change the way the genre is perceived and hopefully change the norms for the shooters like Goldeneye did; in a positive, less violent way.
That would be a sight to see.