International Red Cross fights video games

The International Red Cross has too much time on its hands:

THE Red Cross is investigating whether 600 million gamers are violating the Hague and Geneva conventions when they kill and blow stuff up for fun.

Delegates at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Crescent raised the concerns over the potential “International Humanitarian Law” violations during a workshop in Geneva.

I would just emphasize that the International Red Cross is a distinct organization from the American Red Cross. The latter is a valuable institution, the former isn’t good for much.

LONG POSTSCRIPT: Glenn Reynolds — where I first saw this story — has pulled back from it, posting a link to what he calls the ICRC response. It says:

[Q.] A few media reported that certain virtual acts performed by characters in video games could amount to serious violations of the law of armed conflict. Is this correct?

[A.] No. Serious violations of the laws of war can only be committed in real-life situations, not in video games.

Sounds pretty reasonable (although note the use of the word “serious”), but this is not a response to the story. It’s from a FAQ dated August 12, 2011. That’s over three months before the conference took place so it cannot address reports of what actually took place at the conference. Moreover, the conference’s daily bulletin issued December 1 reports this:

While the Movement works vigorously to promote international humanitarian law (IHL) worldwide, there is also an audience of approximately 600 million gamers who may be virtually violating IHL. Exactly how video games influence individuals is a hotly debated topic, but for the first time, Movement partners discussed our role and responsibility to take action against violations of IHL in video games. In a side event, participants were asked: “what should we do, and what is the most effective method?” While National Societies shared their experiences and opinions, there is clearly no simple answer. There is, however, an overall consensus and motivation to take action.

From their own report, it seems clear that the article is accurate. The organization’s actual response was appended to the article:

Update: After this story was published, Red Cross International said the organisation would not be discussing the matter any further beyond the initial workshop. . .

“Serious violations of the laws of war can only be committed in real-life situations, not in video games,” Mr Farnoudi told news.com.au.

Okay, I’m glad they’re backing away, but still note the use of the word “serious”. They are evidently sticking to the position that gaming can violate international law, just not in a “serious” way.

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