In one of the most out-of-touch attempts in recent memory at spreading awareness of the realities of war, the International Committee of the Red Cross has called on first-person shooter players to follow the real-world Rules of War when answering the call of duty on their respective digital battlefields.
“Every day, people play games set in conflict zones right from their couch,” reads the official website for the ICRC’s ‘Play By The Rules’ campaign.
“But right now, armed conflicts are more prevalent than ever,” the organization continues. “And to the people suffering from their effects, this conflict is not a game. It destroys lives and leaves communities devastated. Therefore, we’re challenging you to play FPS by the real Rules of War, to show everyone that even wars have rules—rules which protect humanity on battlefields IRL.”
Composed of various treaties, laws, and charters adopted over human history such as the Hauge Convention of 1907 and the modern-era Geneva Conventions, the rules of war generally seek to strike a humanitarian balance between “weakening the enemy and limiting suffering”.
To this end, the ICRC recommends four-specific rules – all of which are found in the aforementioned Geneva Conventions – for players to follow during games, including:
- No Thirsting – When an enemy is down and can’t respond, you can’t keep shooting at them. (Based on the Convention’s Article 13, which states “prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.”
- No Targeting Non-Violent NPCs – Bots that don’t fire unprovoked are considered civilians, and you can’t target or harm them. (Based on Additional Protocol II, Article 13(3) which states “The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited […] unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.”
- No Targeting Civilian Buildings – In any given game map, houses, schools, or hospitals are considered safe zones that you cannot harm. When fighting in these spaces, you must do everything you can to avoid damage. (Based on the 1977 Additional Protocol I, which states “Places or areas designated for the sole protection of civilians, such as hospital zones or similar refuges, should not be the object of military operations.”
- Use Med Kits on Everyone – If you have an unused med kit that works on others, you must give it to those who need it—be they friendly or enemy. (Based on Geneva Convention II Article 12, which states”Members of the armed forces and other persons mentioned in the following Article, who are wounded or sick, shall be respected and protected in all circumstances. They shall be treated humanely and cared for by the Party to the conflict in whose power they may be, without any adverse distinction founded on sex, race, nationality, religion, political opinions, or any other similar criteria.”
In promotion of this campaign, the ICRC partnered with five streamers – DanucD, Zemie, Jukeyz, KingGeorge, and Gingy – to host a six-hour Twitch livestream on April 15th wherein they each ‘played by the rules’ in different games – PubG Battlegrounds, Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, and Escape From Tarkov, respectively.
Further, the ICRC created a custom Fornite island named after the campaign and invited players to “learn to follow REAL Rules of War in this competitive mode”.
The ‘Play By The Rules’ website lists Arma III, and more specifically its Laws of War DLC, as one of the campaign’s “participating titles”.
However, it should be noted that this content was made and released in 2017 for a separate ICRC fundraiser, which ultimately raised and donated a total of $176,667 to the organization.
In a statement provided to Fox News Digital, ICRC spokesperson Christopher Hanger explained that the the organization’s goal with the campaign was not to strip down “the joy and fun of playing first-person shooter games,” but rather “to collaborate hand in hand with the community to have a tangible and meaningful outcome for IHL as a common good for humanity.
“This does not mean that we want to in any way force the industry or players to incorporate the laws of war into video games but rather to start having exchanges about how these laws are designed to protect each and every one of us in a situation of armed conflict,” he asserted.
Closing out his statement, Hanger ultimately clarified that “real-life armed conflict and its humanitarian consequences are and will always be [the ICRC’s] main concern.”