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Should video games respect international war crimes law?

The Red Cross is looking into it.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is investigating whether developers should be asked to better respect and reflect international humanitarian law in their video games.

As reported by Kotaku, a "sub-event" was held at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva this week to discuss how games influence the public perception of war crimes.

"While the Movement works vigorously to promote international humanitarian law worldwide, there is also an audience of approximately 600 million gamers who may be virtually violating IHL," read the event's description.

"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."

A video montage, reproduced below, was released to publicise the event, highlighting offending scenes from the Medal of Honor, Call of Duty and ArmA franchises.

The committee is yet to announce its findings, with an update expected on the ICRC's website at some point in the next few weeks "with a view to stating and explaining our interest in the topic."

Of course, the Red Cross has no authority to impose laws or official restrictions but it is a respected group with the power to influence policy makers. What could the possible outcome of its discussions be?

"In line with the Conference's aim of strengthening IHL, the event aims at achieving a common understanding of the problem and outlining a course of action whereby the Movement could help reduce these 'virtual' - yet very realistic - violations of IHL," it explained.

"One possible course of action could be to encourage game designers/producers to incorporate IHL in the development and design of video games, while another could be to encourage governments to adopt laws and regulations to regulate this ever-growing industry."

The Entertainment Software Association offered the following response to news of the debate:

"We cannot comment on the merits or specifics of the International Committee of the Red Cross proposal because we have not discussed this with them directly or seen any specifics of their meeting. However, we are immovably committed to developers' rights for creative freedom and in achieving their artistic vision."