From an editorial in Bloomberg News on Wednesday:
You might think the International Committee of the Red Cross would have plenty to do just providing humanitarian aid to people in war zones. And so it does. So why is the organization poking its nose into the debate over violent video games?
As it turns out, thats also a pretty good use of its time. Among the millions of young people who play such games today virtually capturing, torturing and killing enemy combatants are some of the soldiers, military officers, government leaders and opinion makers of tomorrow. That is reason enough to argue that their games ought to follow the international laws that protect victims of war.
Those rules, which the ICRC has a mandate to promote, are routinely flouted by the multitude of popular games that portray battlefields as lawless zones where civilians are fair targets, maximum force is standard and torture is legitimate.
While there is no definitive proof that video-game violence affects human behavior, as the ICRC acknowledges, video games are different from movies or books: They require active participation. And players who are rewarded again and again for virtual war crimes may begin to regard such practices as acceptable.
Games that are realistic the ICRC isnt concerned about science fiction or fantasy regularly feature unpunished war crimes. In Call of Duty: Black Ops, a player can advance only by watching his character insert glass shards into the mouth of a captured fighter and commanding the games hero to punch the detainees face.
The ICRC isnt looking to ban, regulate or censor such games which would be futile anyway, at least in the United States where courts have ruled their content is protected by the First Amendment. Instead, the organization encourages manufacturers to build in penalties for virtual war crimes.
Such revisions dont seem to hurt sales.
As for users and their parents the appeal is more realism and more responsibility. Game makers can market the changes as providing greater authenticity and challenge, requiring virtual soldiers to accomplish their mission while causing the least damage to civilians and property. Just as actual soldiers are called upon to do.
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