Dad Lets Son Play Call of Duty IF He Promises Not to Violate Geneva Conventions

A parent’s concern over his 13-year-old son’s request to play Call of Duty led to an agreement that the boy read – and play by – the rules of the Geneva Conventions.

The dad, writer Hugh Spencer, recounts the episode for  boingboing:

[My son Evan’s] latest favourite game is Call of Duty – which he plays on-line with his friends. Evan’s wanting to play C of D was something of a challenge for us. It’s rated T and he’s only just a teenager and point and shoot first person games worry me some.


Evan is relentlessly reasonable sometimes — he outlined why he wanted to play the game and he was pretty upfront why he knew my "parent-sense" would start tingling. So I had to be reasonable too…

I asked Evan to google the Geneva Convention. Then he had to read it and then we had to discuss it. This we did. So the deal is that Evan has to fight according to the rules of the Geneva Convention. If his team-mates violate the Convention then play stops and Call of Duty goes away for a while.

GP: Although the application of the teachable moment concept is commendable, it’s a bit difficult to see how the Geneva Conventions would relate to Call of Duty since the game contains no representations of prisoners or civilians that could be mistreated.

Althought the CoD title in question is not specified, it is likely World at War, as Spencer makes reference to World War II in his article.

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  1. Conejo says:

    Really, i would hope the father got his shit straight and instead required his boy follow LOAC (Law of Armed Combat) instead, since it has more to do with actual combat than the Geneva Conventions articles.


    Here are we — and yonder yawns the universe.

  2. GrimCW says:

    actually you don’t have to shoot them, the NPC’s there will do it for you if you stall.

    i didn’t shoot them my first time round and just went down there to find myself amidst a hail of fire that didn’t hurt me but killed them. 🙂

    i was gonna knife’em…

  3. Bennett Beeny says:

    If you play through the single player campaign you MUST break the Geneva convention in order to complete the game.  If you don’t think you did it, you probably need to read up on what they disallow.

  4. MaskedPixelante says:

    What in the world… that has got to be the single strangest thing I’ve ever seen…

    Like… how does that work… if he’s playing online? It’s not like the AI is programmed to know or care about treating the enemies fairly…

    This is just… weird…

    —You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

  5. Austin_Lewis says:

    In WWII, American Medics were in non-combat roles.  Few had even a sidearm, and fewer still had a rifle or tommy gun.  Combat Field Medics didn’t begin to appear until Vietnam, when guerilla warfare made it much less sensible to have men without weapons in the unit in the field.

  6. Austin_Lewis says:

    Don’t let him play the single-player campaign.  Right off the bat, some terrible breaking of the Geneva Convention by the japanese soldiers. 

    Seriously though, this is moronic.  I must have played wrong or something, because I never got to torture, shoot civilians, or do any of the other stuff the Geneva Convention says we shouldn’t do.  Hell, the worst thing I did (morally), was set fire to fields in Germany with molotov cockatails.  It’s not like the game includes torture.

  7. Cecil475 says:

    But my roomate thinks it’s a cool idea that the father is taking the time to show interest in what he is doing and showing him the beliefs and guidelins that he believes in.

    I didn’t mean to say I didn”t agree with it in my last post, but I didn’t expect something like this.

     – Warren Lewis

    R.i.P GamePolitics 2005-2016

  8. Cecil475 says:

    You should really see me stick to the Geneva Conventions when I play Metal Gear Solid 2. I use that tranqulizer M9 gun almost all the time. Unless taking their dogtags by force don’t count 😛

     – Warren Lewis

    R.i.P GamePolitics 2005-2016

  9. Adrian Lopez says:

    While I can see the value in getting the kid to familiarize himself with the Geneva Conventions, demanding that the kid abide by them in a video game is just plain ridiculous. 

    The father’s demand reminds me of an uncle who once criticized me for bulldozing trees in Sim City 2000. It’s just a game, folks. It’s make-believe. As far as I’m concerned, is more important for the kid to play like it’s just a game than it is for him to become familiar with the details of the Geneva Convention and then treat the game as seriously as one would treat an actual war.

    There is such a thing as overparenting, you know.

  10. PushDustIn says:

    Honestly, it’s refreshing to see news like this. I have a lot of respect for the way the father and son handled the game. It’s an interesting exercise for both parties, and the son can learn a lot about actual warfare (and the horrors of it, but I think COD is one of the best games that depict war [single player] realistically and emotionally) and the father is active in his son’s development. I wish more parents would be like this instead of blaming video games for random acts of violence. As Perrin Kaplan has said in the past, "Parents who use video games as babysitter shouldn’t have sex to begin with." Good parenting FTW.

    I can imagine his son online “Ok guys don’t violate the Geneva Convention or else I won’t be able to play for a couple of days…”   (Some guy blasting rap music) “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOU”.  [Side note: When I was playing WAW(online, taking turns) with my nephew, it was really annoying how people mic spammed every round]

    I believe that’s a misprint on the article itself as Chaltab pointed out WOW/ 4 are both rated M. "It’s rated T and he’s only just a teenager." This sentence is contradicting itself as T = 13 y/o for ESRB and teenager is at person who is at least 13 years old. They probably do mean WAW as it’s the newest entry in the series, and its WWII related.

    @deuxhero In WAW in the multiplayer mode you can revive people if you have last stand perk enabled and the other person is in their last stand (If you are on the same team). I believe the older entry in the series had an actual class for medics though.

  11. kefkakrazy says:

    Doesn’t matter-I believe medics only receive protection under the Geneva Convention if they maintain noncombatant status. I guess if you’re being really strict he’d have to wait until the medic shot somebody. But you’re right, it IS a crime to shoot someone openly wearing the Red Cross unless they’re taking an offensive role (carrying a gun/shooting people)

  12. Neeneko says:

    Regardless of if there is any case in the game where the conventions come into play, requring the reading and understanding of them before playing a game that touches on their concepts is utterly full of awesome.

  13. lordlundar says:

    I’m looking at this a different way, more of taking a proactive approch to learning something. Not only does the kid have to study the Geneva convention, he has to apply his studying. Pretty neat way to learn something if you ask me.

  14. Adrian Lopez says:

    Way to completely miss the point, Bennett.

    Whether or not this particular game can be played according to the rules of the Geneva Conventions — or indeed whether the Geneva Conventions can even be broken at all in this game — makes no difference whatsoever with respect to what I’m saying.

    What I’m calling ridiculous here is the very idea that a parent should require his kid to play a game according to rules that are external to that game. It’s nothing more than misdirected discipline.

  15. Bennett Beeny says:

    If you think demanding that the kid abide by the Geneva Conventions in a video game is just plain ridiculous, then you probably don’t understand them.  It’s not that hard to play the multiplayer game as if you’re abiding by Geneva.

  16. finaleve says:

    And i’m a 22 yr old teenager.

    I’ve always had a stuggle in defining the set age of children.  13, in my eyes, is a teenager, since then number 13 contains a teen within its title.  18, however i would consider being a young adult, and around 20 I’d see as an actual adult.

  17. Bennett Beeny says:

    Yup.  The player, as a Russian, is forced to contravene the Geneva convention regarding P.O.W.s. just before the Russians enter the subway.

  18. paketep says:

    it’s a bit difficult to see how the Geneva Conventions would relate to Call of Duty since the game contains no representations of prisoners or civilians that could be mistreated.

    I disagree. There are a couple of places in WaW (as a Russian) where you can kill disarmed prisoners. I don’t know the Geneva Conventions in profundity, but that must surely be against them.

    In multi, though, I don’t think there’s really anything to do against Geneva.

  19. Wolvenmoon says:

    And this is like not wanting a 5’4" tall person with a heart condition to ride a ride that requires people 4 feet and up. Just because the minimum requirement is for people 4 feet and up doesn’t mean it’s the only requirement, or the only recommendation.

  20. Nekowolf says:

    The idea of a "teenager" is, I think, subjective; I myself base it more on personality, responsibilty, and maturity, rather than age.

  21. NovaKitFox says:

    OK what i Find funny is i guess he dosn’t want his Teenage Son, PLaying a TEEN rated game, Though could be the older COD games, Like 2-3 cause COD:WAW is M rated on every thing but DS/PS2

    But that is one way to get your kids to learn about something i must admit

    Nova KitFox

  22. shady8x says:

    I found that to be a rather annoying bit of preaching by the developers… 10s of millions of russians were killed during WWII… for a russian soldier to say ‘this is murder’ about killing a german during that war would be a sign of mental disease or defect…

  23. Erasmus Darwin says:

    "Seems like this guy’s approach to parenting is a bit unorthodox, but effective."

    While it’s a slightly unusual example, I don’t think the underlying concept is all that unorthodox.  It’s the same general principle associated with dealing with children and media that may contain a negative message — explain why it’s different from real life and make sure the children understand that difference.  This just takes it a step further because of the interactive nature of video games, as unlike a movie, a parent can insist that the children import real world rules into the game.

    On the other hand, I suppose this could also backfire.  By adding the gravity of following the Geneva Conventions to the game, in a way, it’s making his son take the game more serious.  It forces him to think of the pixelated enemies — including the ones that he does kill — as actual people subject to real violence rather than the fictional entities that they are.  That’s more than a little bit scary and dangerous when you think about it.

  24. Zero Beat says:

    Seems like this guy’s approach to parenting is a bit unorthodox, but effective.  Props to the dad and the kid for making strong cases about why to play and the rules of playing.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  25. Charax says:

    "Geneva Conventions" would be a great hooker name.

    Yeah, violate me, baby. You’re a naughty soldier, aren’t you?

  26. Erik says:

    As GTA4 or other GTA games for that matter aren’t based around multi-country conflict the Geneva conventions wouldn’t be an acceptable measuring post for actions in that game.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  27. SpencerRuler says:

    Yeah, at some point during the Russian campaign some soldiers kill a German soldier. Then one of the Russians say "This isn’t war, this is murder!" Then the Sgt says something about how the germans aren’t better or something like that.

  28. HarmlessBunny says:

    Actually there is a point in the game during the Russian Campaign where you shoot wounded Germans and prisoners. The game portrays the unslaught of the Wehrmacht against the Russian people as rather brutal and vicious… so it makes it tempting to be the better person and let the wounded Germans go, or to follow your Sgt and slaughter them all!

    Making a kid learn about the Geneva Convention and then "play" by those rules? Good idea to educate the young ones 🙂

  29. Canary Wundaboy says:

    There are a couple of points in the game where I can see where the convention would be a factor. Still……I have to say when playing online I doubt it’s foremost on most player’s minds.

  30. Vake Xeacons says:

    OORAH! Now that’s parenting! And kudos to the kid for being understanding and reasonable in his requests. And, GP, there’s much more to the Geneva Conventions than how to treat prisoners. There’s rules on how to fight and even who to shoot, and even procedures on encounters with friendly fire.

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