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War crimes in video games should be punished, ICRC says

The International Committee of the Red Cross have called for video games to punish crimes committed in battle by adhering to real-life international war conventions.

“The ICRC believes there is a place for international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) in video games,” the organization that works worldwide to provide humanitarian help for people caught in war zones said in a statement on their website.

“The ICRC is concerned that certain game scenarios could lead to a trivialization of serious violations of the law of armed conflict,” they added. “The fear is that eventually such illegal acts will be perceived as acceptable behavior.” 

Bernard Barrett, a spokesman for the organization said they were not trying to censor games or spoil people’s fun, but rather, “make clear that there are rules in battle and that certain acts are illegal.”

Shooting civilians, torture, attacking ambulances and killing prisoners are all aspects in video games that they want to address, he explained.

He added that they were not concerned with fantasy games, but those that mimic situations that might be seen in current armed conflicts, known as “first person shooters” although he declined to name specific titles.

"We're not asking for censorship, we don't want to take any elements out of the games," he said. "We're not trying to make games boring or preachy, but we’re hoping that the ones that offer a realistic portrayal of a modern battlefield can incorporate some sort of reward or penalties depending on whether they follow the basic rules of armed conflict.

“We are not talking about censorship or banning anything,” he added. “It’s just making it more realistic, the same way the military has rules on the battlefield, then gamers have the same rules.”

While concern over the influence of violence in video games is shared by many, researchers have not established a definitive link. Currently, the American Psychological Association is reviewing its 2005 statement that said there "appears to be evidence" of this; a coalition of 228 of the society's members this week urged a revision, arguing that, based on the current research, some assertions in the statement "cannot be supported."

Activision, the producers of the video game Call of Duty, and Rockstar, the producers of Grand Theft Auto, did not respond to a request for comment by NBC News at the time this article was published. 

Barrett explained that the ICRC were already working with production companies to incorporate these rules into games and others who they had not contacted, had also incorporated some of them into their products.

“We would be keen to work with others,” he said.

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