Surely not, but the Red Cross has other ideas. They believe that over 600 million gamers have committed war crimes, which prompts the question: can real life crimes be committed in video games?
The Red Cross is currently investigating if 600 million gamers have violated The Hague and Geneva conventions in virtual worlds. If they find that the conventions have been breached, they may request that developers conform to international war laws in video games.
That sounds ridiculous and blurs the line between fantasy and reality. However, it isn’t a new concept. It’s no different to lobbyists comparing violent virtual games to violence in real life, failing to notice the clear gap between the two.
Targeting war crimes pushes the issue into more controversial grounds because of the morality surrounding the issue. The Red Cross has essentially said it’s ok to be a massacring murderer in Grand Theft Auto, just make sure you don’t commit any war crimes in Modern Warfare 3.
Do we really need a line to be drawn in the sand, or has gaming already established its boundaries as to what can be done in games that is downright illegal in the real world. Murdering people must be accepted. Without the ability to kill, there would be no video games. Hell, you could even be cited for reckless driving and manslaughter in Mario Kart 7 if we were to attribute real world laws to virtual video games.
While the on-going debate about violence in games and our children bashing each other won’t cease any time soon, gruesome murder has been largely accepted in games, as it has in all forms of American media, which makes this a rather strange claim by the Red Cross.
Games have been conservative when it comes to sex; that’s where we expect to see public outrage. You only have to head back a few years to the “hot coffee” scandal in GTA: San Andreas to see what happens when a game dares to be sexual – the fact that it was hidden content aside. The act itself was totally legal, a normal part of life and was actually fairly tame, yet it was heavily criticised in the mainstream media. Meanwhile, chainsawing heads off has been the norm.
That’s probably why this Red Cross claim sounds so absurd. We expect violence to be accepted in video games. If there is a limit and virtual war crimes are considered to be pushing it too far, where will it end? Where will games cease to be virtual fun and become reality with consequences?
Being a serial killer has been fine for decades. If we block war crimes that will probably be the end of that. And forget about having a few beers while you’re playing Forza 4. With the “realism” the driving simulator boasts and police targeting drink driving, you should probably be charged with practising.
At least a case could be made for bridging the gap between the two. People regularly commit drink driving, and may have done so while gaming. The average Call of Duty player probably hasn’t committed any real war crimes. Despite being slightly more realistic, considering drinking driving in games as a real crime is obviously ridiculous. So why has it been brought up for war crimes?
We play games to avoid reality. We know there’s a massive gap between the two, and prefer to keep them separate. Gamers don’t want their worlds to collide. We should be able to commit as many real life crimes in video games as we want without repercussion, so long as they don’t translate into realistic behaviour.
Red Cross, you’re wasting your time.
By Ben Salter
Is there any act in video games that should be considered a real life crime?