Red Cross To Investigate If Gamers Are War Criminals

Perhaps this is just an indication that some people have too much time on their 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 – which can constitute war crimes – during a workshop in Geneva.

“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,” the Red Cross wrote in its daily bulletin.

“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 spokesperson for ICRC Australia told the workshop looked at how games “represented International Humanitarian Law”, which regulates the legal conduct of warfare.

“The aim for the ICRC is that they send the right signals to their hundreds of millions of players by rewarding respect for IHL and penalising violations,” the spokesperson said.

The Red Cross said if it finds the conventions have been violated, they may ask game  developers to conform to international laws or encourage governments to create laws that regulate the gaming industry, Kotaku reported.

But international law professor at the University of New South Wales Anthony Billingsley told the Red Cross risked trivialising the conventions of warfare.

Mr Billingsley also said there is no way the conventions could apply to individuals because they were state-based.

“There are concerns about the blurring of fantasy and reality,” he said.

To say the least.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Matt says:

    I’m surprised they have the bandwidth for this. Being one of the most inefficient and corrupt charity organizations on earth is a full-time job.

  2. James says:

    Interesting topic to look at having seen, when I was in the Army, how video games affected some people’s expectations when it came to weapon handling and performance.

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    The Red Cross denied this yesterday. They made it clear that you can only be a war criminal if you actually kill real people.

  4. Wow. Haven’t they seen those studies showing people who play violent video games are actually less violent because they bleed off all their anger in virtual realities, and not this one?

  5. @James:

    Can I ask how their expectations were altered? Genuinely curious.

  6. This story is so bunk that I wouldn’t touch it, and I run a games website. People in my business jump on stuff like this.

  7. Michael says:

    The Red Cross denied this yesterday. They made it clear that you can only be a war criminal if you actually kill real people.

    Yup, I am kind of surprised (and disappointed) to see it being brought up here now.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Yup, I am kind of surprised (and disappointed) to see it being brought up here now.

    This is just another example of Doug trying to prove his “Both sides do it” credentials.

    Sorry Doug, one side is not the same as the other. They have both sinned, but “coveting thy neighbors wife” is not even in the same ballpark (unless you are an evangelical) as “Thou shalt not kill.”

    And, what is more, in the Evangelical’s ballpark, killing is good, coveting is bad.

  9. James says:

    @Jeremy Kolassa: In real life, firearms precision machines that require skill and training to use effectively. Of course, video games, as well as movies, show that anyone can pick one up and be able to bulls eye a running zombie in the head at 10 meters.

    While there was no poll on video game use, some of the younger soldiers definitely seemed to have a much harder time understanding that the rifles deserved respect and were not toys to be waved around.

    Now obviously, it’s a long way to go from learning bad weapon handling habits from video games to committing war crimes because of them, the media that we consume can have an affect upon us so it a concept that is worth kicking around.

  10. Tano says:

    Geez Doug, this is just ridiculous of you.

    Granted, the article has primary fault, but are you really unable to see through it? Or do you merely crave the sensationalist headline?

    As I read this, it seems patently obvious that the RC is NOT investigating whether gamers are war criminals. They are investigating whether or not there is something they can do to convince game designers to build in references to humanitarian law so as to spread understanding of it. Or build in negative consequences (in the game, obviously) for gamers who violate the laws.

    Sheesh, this is so tabloid…..

  11. anjin-san says:

    I am sure drum circles figure in to this somehow…

  12. Gord Richens says:

    While the title is an amusing thought, it is clear that the intention is not to bring real-world consequences on virtual game players.

    And while I have no objection to encouraging game developers to introduce an IHL component into their scoring systems, to suggest that laws be written to force game developers to do so is over the top.

  13. Dawnsblood says:

    From the link given here in the comments I did notice this statement:

    The Swiss-based humanitarian group assured gamers Thursday that “serious violations of the laws of war can only be committed in real-life situations.”

    Can someone list the less than ‘serious violations’ so I don’t get in trouble next time my brother talks me into a quick game or two? 😉

  14. peakview84 says:

    @Tano: Really? You find their meddling acceptable in any way at all? That it is not patently ridiculous? Wow. You and people like you are the problem when you give any credence what so ever to self-appointed “do-gooder” nannys like this. I think I should be able to force you to wear a sign that says “this person is a danger to your freedoms”. Is that OK with you? It isn’t? Why not? Same concept you want to allow them to do.

  15. Voyager says:

    @James: Well, I noticed that Hollywood has a fear/worship relationship with firearms, alternately treating them as the avatars of ultimate badassery, and capricious gods who will maim you at the slightest whim.

  16. Mannie says:


    What business has a QNGO like the Red Cross regulating video games. Obviously, their budget is too big, or they’re stealing money from the victims they are supposed to support.,

    Anotrher reason to refuse to support the Red Cross.

  17. J1 says:

    “While National Societies shared their experiences and opinions, there is clearly no simple answer”

    Actually, there is.

  18. Tano says:


    What business has a QNGO like the Red Cross regulating video games.

    Huh? Regulate? How do you imagine that the Red Cross has any power to regulate video games? What on earth are you talking about?

    The Red Cross seems very well placed to argue for a wider understanding of, and respect for international norms for the humanitarian treatment of civilians. Lets create fewer victims of war crimes. Aside from the morality of it, it could be a cost-efficient approach, considering the money the RC spends dealing with the aftermath of these atrocities.

  19. Voyager says:

    @Tano: Call it a hunch, but I suspect that very few people in Rwanda play video games.

  20. Socrates says:

    This story is not true – even Special Report on Fox “News” had it right a couple of days ago.

    Even Special Report!

  21. Tano says:


    Hmm. lets leave aside the question of why you have the hunches that you do, and just ask you why you rely on hunches, rather than, say, 30 seconds with Mr. Google?


  22. mikee says:

    My son played a game about the Red Army fighting the Nazis. Players could be on either side, and could play in groups. He quickly learned that death was the normal outcome for soldiers in that game.

    Then he got a Mosin-Nagant 91/30 rifle from me, and shot it a few times, and realized the whole game was so unrealistic as to be ridiculous.

    Reality often trumps fantasy.

  23. Mike Giles says:

    That the Red Cross would like for game designers, who after all claim that their games are as realistic as possible, to take into account international law. is understandable. Games in which POW’s and/or innocent civilians are murdered with impunity, should be anathema. However, it does raise the interesting question of what standards those designers would, or should, use when it comes to non state actors and/or other illegal combatants. After all the rules the Red Cross expects states to abide by, differ from those applied to – let’s say – guerillas who hide among the civilian population or hired mercenaries.

  24. If shooting at and killing pixel images and little lead soldiers is a violation of humanitarian law, then we have to expand the definition of humanity beyond all bounds. Otherwise, this is an exercise in defining thought crime. Double plus ungood!

  25. Tano says:

    @Thomas T. Thomas:

    Shooting pixels is not a violation of international law, and no one is proposing that it be made so.

    You have been lied to by headline of this post, and by the moron who wrote the linked article. If you read the article carefully, or read some of the comments above, you will understand what is going on here..

    Don’t let the demagogues jerk you around.

  26. Sulaco says:

    However everyone understands that the RED Cross would if it could figure out a way to enforce its thought crimes law on every person on the planet, just like the criminal UN is now trying to draft into treaty via “climage change” they would in a heart beat and you can be sure there would be no concern for the slaughter that would then take place because they are our gods and we better understand and accept that, or else!

  27. Willy says:

    Why the heck did I ever give money to the Red Cross? What a fool I’ve been.