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War Criminals in training!
December 8, 2011 2:50 PM   Subscribe

The International Committee of the Red Cross is deeply concerned about six hundred million people who commit war crimes... virtually. All those people out there playing video games involving shooting? Today's gamers may become tomorrow's war criminals.

Their solution? Gaming companies should "voluntarily" incorporate compliance with International Humanitarian Law into their games. And if they won't, then laws should be passed compelling them to do so.
posted by Chocolate Pickle (61 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
The actual article is fairly balanced. It's not just "violent video games make people violent". Highly realistic war games should at least try to incorporate the rules of war -- just like real wars try to incorporate them. It's not like real life war plays by the rules, exactly.
posted by chavenet at 2:55 PM on December 8, 2011


I think it would be a good idea for designers of 'realistic' war games to also at least recognize that the laws of war exist, even if they don't strictly enforce them.
posted by empath at 2:56 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Really? Seriously? These are games where people are able to run around with 3000 pounds of ammo and a half dozen weapons all at the same time, plus in games like Battlefield you can run around with a couple of defib paddles bringing dead teammates back to 100% health with a 2 second jolt like Rambo Jesus and they're worried about accurately modeling war crime rules? I think realism is still a long way away from these games.
posted by barc0001 at 2:58 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Who is next after video game publishers? Book publishers? TV producers?

...The Red Cross does realize that video games are fiction, right?
posted by xedrik at 2:58 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


While they're at it, can somebody incorporate some anti-trust regulations, tenants' rights, and bankruptcy protection into Monopoly? Or else Christmas is really going to suck, again.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:59 PM on December 8, 2011 [26 favorites]


It is both little-known and little-enforced, but Article 12, Section 24-B, Paragraph 7 of the Geneva Convention expressly forbids squatting up and down on the heads of fallen enemy soldiers in order to pantomime teabagging them.
posted by griphus at 3:00 PM on December 8, 2011 [43 favorites]


...ye ken have me Teamfortress Two badges when ye pry 'em from me cold dead fingers....
posted by zarq at 3:04 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The next version of "Grand Theft Auto" sure is gonna be boring.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:04 PM on December 8, 2011




It's worth mentioning that real life fighters in real life revolutions use Call of Duty to train. The idea that what's portrayed in the games might have consequences on an actual battlefield isn't absurd.
posted by empath at 3:06 PM on December 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know, things like "violations of the laws of war can only be committed in real-life situations, not in video games."
posted by jepler at 3:06 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


What we need to do is create interactive simulations simulations and games that require successful completion before being placed in any position of civic responsibility. These games should be updated to reflect current worldwide economic, environmental and structural constraints. Failing to achieve appropriate passing grades in these games should disqualify a leader for any public office where s/he is responsible for serving the public.

Another game certification I would like to see is a certification game required of all parents, without which they would not be permitted to bear children. The game would include science-based information about prenatal and post-natal care, education, behavior modeling, nutrition, and a few other things.

We will never reduce the violence in games until we get the violence out of culture. We have to start at the root of violence - the family, public policy, etc., instead of treating violence with a band-aid.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:08 PM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Okay, now that I've given into to my temptation to go for the lulz, I can see how the Red Cross would be concerned about this. If there were a game where you racked up points by raping women or abducting children and some human rights organization expressed their deep misgivings about it, everyone would understand their point. Sure, it's a fictional game, but do you really want to create a reward system for the most skilled virtual enactment of horrific human rights violations? But there are a lot of us who see war crimes in games as somehow different. Why we put mass murder and human rights violations in war simulations in a different mental category that we do other crimes against persons is an interesting question--I would suspect it has a lot to do with (1) desensitization, (2) an implicit "othering" of whoever the enemy is and (3) the natural competitive urgency of battle scenarios. But I can certainly see how an organization that chronicles real-world war crimes would be sickened at knowing that millions of people pretend to do the things they struggle against every day, and consider it quality entertainment.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:08 PM on December 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Basically all the Red Cross is saying to the video game industry is 'please consult with us so we can give you expert advice on humanitarian considerations in wars'. I don't think they're at all being unreasonable. Call of Duty already considers humanitarian casualties to an extent, and I think the games would be improved in terms of realism if they included more realistic depictions of the effect of war on non-combatants.

Aside from actual fighters training on the games, pop culture depictions of war have an impact on politics-- a generation of kids raised on rah-rah guns and bombs are awesome war simulations are eventually going to be able to vote.
posted by empath at 3:09 PM on December 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


On preview I am encouraged that we don't all just get our collective defense GRRRR on because the those old fogies don't get gaming etc....

My attitude (working for a "family" gaming company) is that it's OK to introduce a little humanity along the way.
posted by victors at 3:11 PM on December 8, 2011


Everyone who has ever murdered a prostitute while playing GTA would be jailed for life by these loons
posted by Renoroc at 3:11 PM on December 8, 2011


JG Ballard should've consulted with a real James Spader before writing Crash.
posted by basicchannel at 3:13 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone who has ever murdered a prostitute while playing GTA would be jailed for life by these loons

Thank you for taking the misleading FPP and GRARing with it farther than I thought possible!
posted by kmz at 3:16 PM on December 8, 2011 [15 favorites]


Maybe we need a GRAR Crimes Tribunal.
posted by chavenet at 3:18 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Honestly, I feel like we should kill this fpp and have someone do another one that accurately reflects what's in either the article or their report.
posted by empath at 3:19 PM on December 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


kill this fpp

empath you internets war criminal

hdu
posted by elizardbits at 3:20 PM on December 8, 2011


If I wanted a realistic war experience, I would have joined the army.
posted by vidur at 3:23 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a recent German study about how first person shooters desensitize a person to shooting people, and we've had some horrible human rights violations among our soldiers in recent years (though, of course, those have existed throughout history without the help of video games). I can understand why the Red Cross would want war games reinforce the understanding of what is and is not allowed in war.

One easy solution for makers of war games (and I'm not being snarky here) might be to have the default mode in any given game force a player to adhere to those rules and to have another mode (Savage mode?) that allows a player to totally ignore them. Best of both world, but a subtle reminder to players that there are real world rules, since they'd have to choose the "Savage mode," thus choosing to ignore the rules.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:30 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was just thinking yesterday about what a Blood Meridian video game would be like, and how I would play it if I could. But hopefully the experience of playing it would be horrible.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:33 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I bought Battlefield 3 last week. I loaded up a 64 player multiplayer game. I had no idea how to drive any of the vehicles so I made my way to the front lines on foot, desperately crawling through long grass, completely blinded by the smoke and explosions of mortars falling all around me, and finally being killed by an enemy sniper with some fancy IR scope that could see through smoke and grass. I never fired a single shot, and my death was completely futile.

If anything, Battlefield 3 taught me that joining the army would have been a very very very bad career choice, not that it would be fun to be a war criminal...
posted by xdvesper at 3:35 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought the War Games without Rules of War were designed for people too cowardly to fight in a REAL war.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:36 PM on December 8, 2011


Well, all right, I have to admit I'm a little concerned whenever I play a video game where if your team wins a round, your reward is that you get to massacre the now defenseless enemy team.

(ALSO SHOOTING MEDICS IS AGAINST THE HAGUE CONVENTION OR SOMETHING.)
posted by Comrade_robot at 3:37 PM on December 8, 2011


YOUR REPORT, I HAZ FOUND IT (PDF)

(on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of The Leopard")
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:38 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I just redefine my opponents to be 'enemy combatants', and then no rules apply.
posted by pompomtom at 3:42 PM on December 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Prediction : The next Grand Theft Auto is going to be set in The Hague.
posted by crunchland at 3:43 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I admit I haven't played all the GTA games, but unless there's a GTA: The Somme or something that I haven't heard of, none of them are set in wartime or involve wars at all. So I'm not sure why people keep bringing it up.
posted by kmz at 3:50 PM on December 8, 2011


The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement recently discussed the implications of video games that simulate real-war situations and the opportunities the games may present for spreading knowledge of the laws of armed conflict.

Today I feel like nuking MeFi from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:53 PM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


German study about how first person shooters desensitize a person to shooting people


Another way one could interpret that article would be that FPS gamers are can more readily respond to violent imagery with increased survival and problem-solving skills and suppressing an emotional 'fight or flight' response, thus increasing survivability in real-world situations.

"This indicates that the gamers put themselves into the video game due to the computer game images and were looking for a potential strategy to find a solution for the game status shown,"


So previous studies have shown that in the same way driving simulations can help me be a better driver by training in first-person view, can by your cited study also be applied in first person shooters for surviving violent situations, whether by avoiding injury through evasive maneuvers or responding by violence.

'Desensitize' can mean a heck of a lot more than just moral ambivalence.
posted by chambers at 3:54 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a recent German study about how first person shooters desensitize a person to shooting people....

Of course, it's worth noting that the study found nothing about desensitization, in no small part because you can't measure that. What it found was that when a person that played violent video games looked at pictures of the violent video game an MRI scan of their brain looked one way, and when they looked at pictures of real-world violence an MRI scan of their brain looked a different way. One might argue that this is clear evidence that something is changing in the brain, but it's pretty hard to believe blindly when you know that such techniques have had the same effect on dead fish.
posted by IAmUnaware at 3:59 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone who has ever murdered a prostitute while playing GTA would be jailed for life by these loons
Right after people who comment without reading the links or even bothering to understand what's going on.
posted by delmoi at 4:01 PM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


The "get your hands off my game" reactions in this thread are comedies of logical fallacies. Shoot first and think later. I wonder how people train for that kind of behavior.
posted by stbalbach at 4:04 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was just thinking yesterday about what a Blood Meridian video game would be like, and how I would play it if I could. But hopefully the experience of playing it would be horrible.

I finished a replay of Killer7 yesterday, and I think that's the closest thing to this that actually exists. It's a very fun game to play for me, but it makes me feel bad. In spite of the refined mechanics, the clinky videogame sound effects, the wonderful soundtrack and bright flashing colors, it's a game that continually exposes you to and forces you to do highly unpleasant things. I played No More Heroes 2 for a little while this afternoon, and it left me reeling from that same arsenic atmosphere (sweet but poison). Both games are very good at showing you that shooting someone point blank in the face and cutting people in half aren't fun, but videogames as a medium have a lot of tricks and techniques for making things like that feel good.

I think Killer7 has my favorite climax of any game, and I think it's the climax that really makes me feel this game probably has the most intelligent things to say about violence in games thus far. Your first and only real choice in the game is between stepping up to a Dramatic Showdown (and possibly preventing further violence, but probably not) and defusing a violent situation (which leaves the possibility of future violence open).

That's a really hard choice, but after the rest of the game, I've always picked the pacifistic path. I think that's the "right" choice, in so far as there is one. Violence doesn't work in absolutes--there is no shadowy villain hiding behind the drapes who defeating will banish war and violence and usher in world peace forever. Forgiving or showing mercy for your enemies is a tremendous risk to take, and I've always liked how we get to feel both how hard it is to kill someone and how hard it is to walk away from violence in that scene.
posted by byanyothername at 4:04 PM on December 8, 2011


Anyway clearly they are talking about games like Battlefield or modern warfare that clearly try to give the user the experience of being in a 'real' war, although it sounds like there are still a lot of 'game-y' aspects to it. It seems obvious that people interested in joining the military would play these games.
posted by delmoi at 4:04 PM on December 8, 2011


This has certainly raised the bar for "dumbest thing evar" previously held by the Baby it's Cold Outside post.
posted by localroger at 4:18 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok, read the article and I'm still pretty GRARy. Yeah, I acknowledge that games can be desensitizing, and honestly the thought of incorporating the conventions into game play actually sounds like it could be a cool element. It's the thought of making this a legislative issue that gets my back up. Instead of passing laws to regulate video game content maybe look at laws regarding training for military recruits or war crime accountability. This all just seems a waste of time and resources, sound and fury. So yeah, GRAR!
posted by calamari kid at 4:27 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kotaku has a habit of pushing just the right buttons to produce GRAR! while still looking fairly innocent about it.

From the study's PDF:

The aim of the study is 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, and to engage in a dialogue with game producers and distributors on the idea of incorporating the essential rules of IHL and IHRL into their games which may, in turn, render them more varied, realistic and entertaining.

The goal is not to prohibit the games, to make them less violent or to turn them into IHL or IHRL training tools. The message we want to send to developers and distributors of video games, particularly those portraying armed conflict scenarios, is that they should also portray the rules that apply to such conflicts in real life, namely IHRL and IHL.


I for one cheer that an informed humanitarian organization is interested in working with developers. They say developers interested in making these types of games should incorporate accuracy into their rules of combat. Not must.

"Their solution? Gaming companies should "voluntarily" incorporate compliance with International Humanitarian Law into their games. And if they won't, then laws should be passed compelling them to do so."

When they say voluntarily, they do actually mean that. Public pressure is one way to get companies to be more responsible. Another is to educate developers and the media about the legal complexities of war by opening their doors to developers as consultants.

The quote Kotaku references didn't say laws should be passed. They said one of several solutions could be legislation, not that it's the best solution or that they support it. They make every attempt possible to be objective in their study, findings, and recommendations. And that quote is in reference to an informal side session in which humanitarian experts talked about the study and topic at hand. It wasn't a call to action by the Red Cross organization.

There's no legitimate GRAR here.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 5:39 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Joey Michaels: "There was a recent German study about how first person shooters desensitize a person to shooting people, and we've had some horrible human rights violations among our soldiers in recent years (though, of course, those have existed throughout history without the help of video games). I can understand why the Red Cross would want war games reinforce the understanding of what is and is not allowed in war."

I know a few years ago there were news stories about how soldiers loved to play video games. I don't know what kind of games they were playing, but based on the demographic, you'd think maybe they were playing war games. But I'd imagine they might want a reprieve from the realities of war... So maybe they're playing Mario Galaxy instead.

Either way - if they are playing FPS games, then maybe enforcing the rules of war in said games is probably a good idea so they get that mindset engendered in them while they're actually at the front lines...
posted by symbioid at 5:45 PM on December 8, 2011


The way the Kotaku piece is written leads you to believe that the committee's recommendations are to "encourage governments to adopt laws and regulations to regulate this ever-growing industry" (it follows a paragraph about the recommendations) which isn't the case when you check the PDF of the report. The article is misleading but the OP is wrong and the "voluntarily" scare quotes are uncalled for.

or, on preview, what subject_verb_remainder said.
posted by Challahtronix at 5:50 PM on December 8, 2011


I swear I knew nothing about the ethnic cleansing operation carried out by the Roman Legions in Asia Minor while playing Rome: Total War. They acted without orders! It wasn't me, honest!

(should I be consulting a lawyer?)
posted by smoothvirus at 5:52 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd like to add... the study specifically focuses on issues like misinformation in media causing problems when civilians - like voters! - have an inaccurate picture of what constitutes a humanitarian concern or war crime. This is really obvious right now in the states with the topic of torture (and they point this out, and point out ways in which games reinforce the idea that torture is a legitimate action to take in dire straights during wartime and why this is a problem in our cultural consciousness).

The study acknowledges the the majority of players are not in the military and are unlikely to be in the military. It's not really focused on bringing these issues up to soldiers - there's other, more appropriate ways to do that. They chose games not just for their realistic wartime depictions, but also because the players of those games would have little to no experience with humanitarian law, so everything they know on the topic is actually informed by these games.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 5:58 PM on December 8, 2011


When I was stationed at Fort Bragg, units took turns providing soldiers for Robin Sage, a lengthy field exercise for Special Forces candidates. Soldiers liked doing it because they got to see SF types in action, either participating as OPFOR or pretending to be friendly insurgents.

I remember hanging out on the picnic table outside the barracks the night the Robin Sage detail got back. We sat around drinking beers while they talked about what they'd seen and done and how cool it all was. One of them was particularly geeked because he got to go on some sort of raid as OPFOR and pretend-kill a bunch of hostiles of some sort. He claimed that the SF soldier who led the raid told them all that they weren't supposed to double-tap when pretend-killing because the exercise demanded adherence to official doctrine but that "everybody knows that's what you do in the field." That guy's eyes were really shining as he told that story.

When I was stationed at Fort Gordon for Signal School, one of our drill sergeants was really fond of a marching cadence that involves a bunch of little vignettes about going to playgrounds and blowing up children, or walking into a church and executing everybody while they pray, or going to the mall and cutting people up with a machete. He caught me not sounding off and pulled me out of the formation and wanted to know what I thought I was doing. I explained that to my newish understanding of the laws of land warfare, the cadence seemed wrong. He went on some diatribe about Nazi babies during WWII who'd shoot US soldiers and that those were the children on the playground we were singing about killing. I still wouldn't sound off, so I ended up in a "strongly encouraged" session with a chaplain who wanted to explore my latent pacifism.

What's sort of interesting about the latter anecdote is that the last week I was at Fort Bragg, just before collecting my honorable discharge and going home, some general heard a unit sounding off to the same baby-killing cadence up on Ardennes and got so disgusted he put out a memo explaining that units were not to be doing any more singing about killing children or murdering civilians. So, you know, vindication for me, I guess.

I read a few days ago that the trend is toward less and less of us ever even knowing a soldier, which means we've got something of an experiential deficit to deal with. Our common narrative about war and what it means suffers as a result. It'd be great if video game authors thought about whether they had some tiny shred of responsibility to think about that when they tell war stories, because fewer and fewer of us are talking to people who can tell us real war stories. And that's what they're doing: Telling war stories. Whether they realize it or not, they help frame the way people discuss war, the same way (as appalling as it is) 24 helped frame the way people talked about terrorism or the way cop procedurals help frame the way people talk about law and order.

It wouldn't have to be some ridiculous "lose 10 points for double-tapping the insurgent" dynamic. But we do know for a fact that some units have gone off the rails and gotten away with war crimes and civilian murder for months or years, and that's another fact of war: Sometimes war criminals go unnoticed, other times they get caught. Sometimes when they get caught they pay a price, other times they still pretty much get away with it. I've played my share of military-themed video games, and a big part of a lot of them is about making choices: You choose weapons, you choose tactics, you choose when to get behind cover and when to sprint ahead, when to fire indiscriminately and when to conserve your ammo. The rules of the game world form the consequences for all those choices. I'd be good with a few extra rules and a few extra consequences, and I'm fine with someone asking us all to reflect on that and what it could mean.
posted by mph at 6:07 PM on December 8, 2011 [14 favorites]


I was just thinking yesterday about what a Blood Meridian video game would be like, and how I would play it if I could. But hopefully the experience of playing it would be horrible.

Apropos of little, I would like to point out that a video game based on Slaughtermatic would be fucking awesome.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:16 PM on December 8, 2011


I can mostly side with Red Cross on this. But it's easy for me because all war is crime to me.

Yeah, they're just games - often in the same way Uwe Boll or Michael Bay's movies are just movies. Yeah, they're just fiction. But many today are incredibly violent and realistic and quite desensitizing.

And quite good at needlessly naturalizing conflict and training people in the ways of war.

Sure, it's basically laser tag, paintball, capture the flag, a dirt clod war, cops and robbers - whatever. Boys (and girls) have been playing like this since the dawn of mankind and organized conflict.

Me? I'm out. I'm done with first person multiplayer shooters. The stuff got tiresome for me back during Counter Strike and Half-Life. The military fetishization and rote, senseless, endless violence is too much for me. I don't find it entertaining. I don't even like being in the same room with it whether it's someone's XBox or a PC game. (Team Fortress is funny and much less serious and much more about interesting gameplay, but it's still tiresome.)

But the endless ambient noise of machine guns firing, explosions, terse commands over simulated radios, people yelling and swearing at each other over voice links... the wet thud of bullets on flesh, writhing avatars... meh.

Maybe it's just because I've had a lot of real violence and strife in my life. Maybe it's because I'm not able to desensitize war, that my imagination is too vivid.

Because when it comes down to it, war is really shitty. It's so much worse to me than disease or natural disasters because it's so intentionally senseless and insane. Even though it's entirely by proxy, but I've witnessed too much war. Too many images of children melted to the ground. Too much Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalism that never should have happened. Too many lost lives, families, limbs, homes. Too many gentle euphemisms for murder and killing like "collateral damage" instead of "murdered people".

And while I don't have links handy, there have been some studies that show that war simulation video games may be reducing overall violence.

And, obviously, it's pretty pointless to try to ban fictions of any sort. Prohibitions usually backfire.

But I still think peace begins at home. I have a hard time being around modern multiplayer gaming. It makes me feel ill and uneasy.

And if I really want to give myself a case of the screaming phantods all I have to do is run out of torches and get lost in a cave in Minecraft.
posted by loquacious at 6:21 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't see this any different than introducing airspace and tower control requirements into flight simulators. Sure you can ignore of play without them, but if you really want the flying an airplane experience that is just plain part of it. For games of random violence this seems a bit silly, but for games that explicitly strive to depict realistic warfare it seems like an obvious development step.
posted by meinvt at 6:22 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


If there were a game where you racked up points by raping women

There actually are, a series of Japanese games named Biko. Probably a few others, but i've actually played that series. It's... "interesting"...to say the least.

we've had some horrible human rights violations among our soldiers in recent years

The video of the photographer and those around him getting run over and the voice over by the soldiers is what really stood out to me, not to mention those who then defended them by saying it's how you talk during war.

It seems like a silly "ban violent videogames!!" thing, but i'm seeing people totally okay with mowing down people, but the romance in Star Wars the Old Republic? That's Icky!! (not to mention they backed out of same sex relations, imagine the outcry there.) Love and affection = bad. Murder and war crimes = good. Got it.
posted by usagizero at 6:32 PM on December 8, 2011


If they wanted to get the majority of online FPS players online overnight, all they would have to do is add spawn camping to the register of war crimes.

More seriously, thanks for those above that have clarified and corrected what the Red Cross is actually calling for. At the very least it's an interesting and worthy idea, and could potentially provide a way of injecting some new things into a fairly stolid genre.

For example, take SWAT 4 - one of the interesting things about it is that to play it properly you have to comply with a whole bunch of rules and regulations. Sure you can just shoot some suspect if you want, but you lose 'points' if you shoot them without justification (i.e. they are not presenting an immediate threat) and taking down a civilian, even accidentally, fails the level. The play experience turns out quite differently than your standard run and gun FPS, and you feel pretty special when you're able to clear an entire level without anyone dying. On the other hand there is scope to enact some police brutality if you are so inclined without penalty, such as pepper spraying restrained NPCs.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:36 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is completely offensive. Their approach is unscientific and uncritical, their words towards the video game industry a meddlesome and authoritarian, and they come across as knowing nothing about art and free speech. What is the point of "debating" whether simulation games fall under the scope of IHL, given that if they had their own way that is exactly what they would do anyways.

Yes, their observations are extremely valid, in particular their comment regarding the portrayal/usage of genocide or excessive force in games. Meanwhile their current strategy represents an utter failure to separate their own biases from the space of possible solutions. Fuck these righteous idiots.
posted by polymodus at 9:30 PM on December 8, 2011


That sure was a bunch of big words on grievous atrocities with no actual quoted passages of said atrocities, said with all of the righteous fury and intellectual depth of a YouTube commentator.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:39 PM on December 8, 2011


the romance in Star Wars the Old Republic? That's Icky!! (not to mention they backed out of same sex relations, imagine the outcry there.

Wait, really? Are you sure? Last I heard they were still going to add them at some point. Otherwise, goddamnit Bioware/EA!
posted by kmz at 7:07 AM on December 9, 2011


Also, comic violence makes you a rapist.

LET'S ALL MAKE UNFOUNDED ASSUMPTIONS TOGETHER! FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:14 AM on December 9, 2011


I love the contrast with the "Baby it’s Cold Outside" discussion. So it’s morally offensive that someone might try to talk someone else into hanging out with them (in a situation that may or may not involve sex) in a song, and it needs to go away. But there should be no limits to violence in video games, and any suggestion of even introducing any morality or boundaries is out of the question.

The thing I keep hearing is "I like violent games and I haven’t killed anyone, so there can’t be any consequences for anyone else or society as a whole". (Really what I’m hearing is "I like violent games and don’t want to stop even if there are consequences, because it’s fun")

I like shooters, starting with the original Wolfenstein, and I’ve played a lot of Halo over the years, but I don’t play the "realistic" war games any more because they make me uncomfortable. (And mostly I’ve played COD and thought it sucked, which made my position a little easier).

I heard a radio show a few years back that talked to families of murder victims. They talked about murder as entertainment, how prevalent it is, and how they saw it so differently now. I had never thought of it that way before.
posted by bongo_x at 8:01 AM on December 9, 2011


It's worth mentioning that real life fighters in real life revolutions use Call of Duty to train. The idea that what's portrayed in the games might have consequences on an actual battlefield isn't absurd.

Let's be accurate about this. The article actually says: "Many of the rebels cite the sophisticated computer war game Call of Duty as their first resource of tactical military knowledge." They do not use it to "train." That is to say, it does not tell teach them emergency first aid or trigger discipline or how to clear a jam or take off a safety or most of the millions of other things that are a part of combat training in real life.

I would be amazed if the tactical military knowledge was anything other than "sitting in a corner and waiting for people to come to you is a much better strategy than running around out in the open, making yourself a target." That's pretty tactical, I guess, for people who've never thought about that kind of thing before, but it's also not much more realistic* a military training tool than hide and seek.

*Unless one considers a game where throwing knives, dual-wielded sub-machine guns, and Old West shotguns are good weapons; sniper rifles are more accurate when you don't look through the scope; the best way to enter a room is by jumping as high as you can; and if you kill three guys in a row, you suddenly have a top-down view of everyone else on your personal radar to be "realistic."
posted by Amanojaku at 12:42 PM on December 9, 2011


"Many of the rebels cite the sophisticated computer war game Call of Duty as their first resource of tactical military knowledge."

They're getting 'tactical military knowledge' from the game. I don't think you really need to unpack it more than that. The games they're playing having some consideration for the laws of war, or at least some recognition that they exist would be a good thing.

Most rebel forces don't have the advantage of having the sort of training you're describing. A lot of their first experience with combat is being fired on in the streets by soldiers and grabbing the first weapon they can find.
posted by empath at 1:29 PM on December 9, 2011


They're getting 'tactical military knowledge' from the game. I don't think you really need to unpack it more than that. The games they're playing having some consideration for the laws of war, or at least some recognition that they exist would be a good thing.

I'd say it doesn't need unpacking primarily because it's incredibly vague. In this context, "tactical military knowledge" that you could also gain from, say, soccer isn't a very meaningful indicator of actual battlefield consequences.

Once you strip the appearance of realism from the games -- "Wow, this gun is really shiny, and the guys yell 'Oscar Mike' a lot" -- you're left with something that has about as much to do with real warfare as Super Mario Bros. has to do with being able to fix your own septic tank. And that matter of "realism" is the crux of the issue, because when the ICRC says they're concerned with "games simulating warfare where players face choices just like on a real battlefield," they're concerned with games that don't actually exist.

I blame the marketing of the games -- they are absolutely billed as that sort of thing. But they're not. At all. Even a little bit.

So I'm not at all against the idea of hypothetically addressing this kind of thing (in fact, did anyone know there's a Blackwater game?), and I think the report is pretty reasonable, but it's really still about that old urban legend, the murder simulator, which everybody thinks is out there somewhere, but nobody manages to actually find.

Most rebel forces don't have the advantage of having the sort of training you're describing. A lot of their first experience with combat is being fired on in the streets by soldiers and grabbing the first weapon they can find.

Well, this is really besides the point, but while rebel groups usually don't have the resources of standing armies, it's true, it really only takes one person who's been through Basic (or whatever the local equivalent is) to spread that knowledge to other members of the group. FARC, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Shining Path, the LRA, and the IRA are all just rebel groups (if we strip the loaded "terrorist" term for groups we don't support from the discussion) and nobody's going to argue that they have to rely on Call of Duty to figure out how to engage on a battlefield.

Aside from actual fighters training on the games, pop culture depictions of war have an impact on politics-- a generation of kids raised on rah-rah guns and bombs are awesome war simulations are eventually going to be able to vote.

Not to pick at your posts in particular (I think I threw about two dozen Favorites your way today all told, so I feel like my karma's good) but this got me thinking: People said the same thing about Reagan-era G.I. Joe cartoons, and I don't think the Gen X/Yers turned out to be particularly war-prone.
posted by Amanojaku at 6:11 PM on December 9, 2011


Civilization IV probably does the best job of depicting modern warfare as it exists today: in it, war is when you change your civic priorities, build more Jails, shift the economies in all your cities, and begin planning the logistics of transporting dozens (if not many more) of platoons across vast continents and oceans.
posted by empath at 9:54 PM on December 11, 2011


FWIW, I volunteer with the ICRC. A huge part of what I do as a volunteer with the ICRC is facilitating discussion about the rules of war and the Geneva Conventions. It is not surprising how little most Americans know about international humanitarian law or international human rights or the Geneva Conventions or even the experience of armed conflict in a civilian space. Honestly, that's all this conversation was about: trying to get people to think about the implications of armed conflict in a civilian space. (personally, I think gamers are a hostile audience for things like this, based on my experience trying to get gamers to think about the implications of sexist language or using "retard" or "gay" casually in gamer smack talk, but the ICRC did not think it would be a hostile audience for wider implications of something thoroughly unrelated to video games). I know I'm late to this thread, but the gist of our internal memo on the subject is:

[being paraphrasing]A large part of the ICRC's mission is education about the rules of war. When the ICRC is not meeting with Prisoners of War or distributing aid in combat zones or reuniting families in combat zones or doing the physical work of protecting injured combatants, captured combatants and civilians in combat zones, it is instructing as many people as possible about the rules of war, the Geneva Conventions and its mission. This conversation took part in the context of that mission: can war games be used to promote understanding of the rules of war.[end paraphrasing] Direct quote: "The American Red Cross believes, as does the ICRC, that this is a healthy discussion, but neither organization is advocating an organized campaign against the gaming industry."

Another direct quote: "We [the American Red Cross, which is not the same organization as the ICRC] think that it’s healthy to promote the discussion around international humanitarian law and the rules of war. In fact, earlier this year the American Red Cross conducted a survey that revealed that 59% of youth aged 12-17 believe there are times when it is acceptable to torture the enemy. 41% even believe that it is sometimes acceptable to torture American soldiers. At the same time, the survey showed that 80% of young people believe that more education about the rules of war is important. One example, may be to include the real laws of war into video games to increase the realism of the game. We strongly agree (with ICRC) that an organized campaign against the video gaming industry would be self-defeating."
posted by crush-onastick at 9:10 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


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