Proving that there really is a study for everything, an interesting new analysis applies International Humanitarian Law (IHL) to a variety of war-themed videogames to see how they stack up.
Playing by the Rules was undertaken by a pair of Swiss organizations, Pro Juventute, a children’s rights group, and Track Impunity Always (TRIAL), an association with a focus on international criminal justice.
The aim of the study was to “raise public awareness among developers and publishers of the games, as well as among authorities, educators and the media about virtually committed crimes in computer and videogames.”
Titles were played by gamers under that watchful eye of representatives from both organizations, along with three lawyers that specialized in IHL. Games tested included Army of Two, Battlefield Bad Company, Call of Duty 4 & 5, Far Cry 2, Metal Gear Solid 4 (referred to as Metal Gear Soldier in the report) and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6 Vegas.
For each title the study offers general information as a lead-in, then offers up context of the conflict in question and lists violations encountered along with legal analysis.
From FarCry 2’s Violations Encountered and Legal Analysis section:
The scenes portray extensive shooting in civilian areas and the shooting of civilian objects, including shooting at a church. All these acts go unpunished in the game. Even if we assume the attacks are not directed against these objects, the excessive destruction of civilian objects amounts to a violation of the principle of proportionality.
IHL allows for some collateral damage to civilians and civilian objects in carrying out hostilities, however, any expected damage must be proportional to the direct and concrete military advantage anticipated.
Overall the study stated, “The result is as deflating as reality. The organisation calls upon game producers to consequently and creatively incorporate rules of international humanitarian law and human rights into their games.”
Among the recommendations offered were:
It would be very useful if developers would incorporate more specific rules on how to conduct an operation in their games, in terms of the weapons allowed, the behaviour allowed, the military targets sought, the degree of collateral damage permitted, etc. The message of the scenes should never be that everything is allowed, or that it is up to the player to decide what is right and what is wrong. In real life, this is not the way it works.
The full study can be viewed here (PDF).
Thanks Bart! (Soldat_Louis)