For a long time now the claim that violent video games cause people to commit real world acts of violence has been floating around the planets collective consciousness, without any really supporting evidence to my mind, but now it seems that things are going one step further. A recent study into games carried out by two Swiss human rights organisations, Trial and Pro Juventute, investigated a number of recently released games to see which of them allowed their players to break humanitarian laws with regards to war crimes. The study focused on how games treat civilians, combatants who surrender and “protected objects” such as churches and mosques, looking for violations of the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols.
Twenty games were scrutinised to see if the conflicts they portrayed and what players can do in the virtual theatres of war were subject to the same limits as in the real world.
“The practically complete absence of rules or sanctions is… astonishing,” said the study.
The games were analysed to see “whether certain scenes and acts committed by players would constitute violations of international law if they were real, rather than virtual”.
Unsurprisingly they found that many games violated the rules of war with reckless abandon. But what exactly is the problem with this and what do they want games designers to do about it?
It said games were sending an “erroneous” message that conflicts were waged without limits or that anything was acceptable in counter-terrorism operations.
“This is especially problematic in view of today’s reality,” said the study.
In particular, it said, few games it studied reflected the fact that those who “violate international humanitarian law end up as war criminals, not as winners”.
The authors said they did not wish to make games less violent, instead, they wrote: “[We] call upon game producers to consequently and creatively incorporate rules of international humanitarian law and human rights into their games.”
Ok seriously, we are talking about computer games here right? The games they looked at included Far Cry 2, Metal Gear Solid and 24: The Game. Does anyone think that these games have anything to do with reality? Do they really think that playing a game like Army of Two will cause people to go out and commit real life war crimes? Just as playing Doom doesn’t cause people to go on a homicidal rampage, playing war games doesn’t turn you into Hitler or Stalin. Computer games are a form of escapism and as such should, first and foremost, be entertaining and fun. Sometimes after a hard day at work there is nothing more relaxing than loading up your favourite game and taking out your frustration on a few innocent civilians. This doesn’t mean for a second that I would ever do the same thing in real life and no matter how realistic the blood spatter or how convincing the cries of pain I, and the vast majority of games, are intelligent enough to remember that it is, at the end of the day, only a game.
This just strikes me as yet another pop at gamers from a group of people who neither understand them nor the games they play.