The International Committee of the Red Cross is urging gamers to adhere to real-life rules of engagement while playing their favorite first-person shooters. The NGO claims its “Play by the Rules” campaign, launched last week on its official Twitch channel, will “show everyone that even wars have rules – rules which protect humanity on battlefields IRL (in real life).”
To attract gamers to the campaign, the Red Cross drafted a few popular Twitch streamers to broadcast themselves fighting honorably on its channel, setting them loose on well-known titles including Call of Duty: Warzone, Rainbow 6 Siege, PUBG Battlegrounds, and Escape from Tarkov. The group even created its own game mode in the title Fortnite that incorporates the laws of combat.
The rules include a ban on “thirsting” (shooting downed or otherwise incapacitated enemies), no attacking non-violent NPCs (non-player characters), no targeting civilian buildings, and mandatory use of medical kits to heal anyone wounded, no matter the alliance of the injured party.
“Every day, people play games set in conflict zones right from their couch. But right now, armed conflicts are more prevalent than ever,” the group’s website states. “To the people suffering from their effects, this conflict is not a game.” The project is supposed to “protect the humanity and dignity of people all over the world,” according to the ICRC.
While digital violence is likely far from the minds of victims of its real-world equivalent, this is the second time the Red Cross has found time to put together such a campaign in the past decade. The NGO hosted an event in an Arma III module called Law of War in 2017 that saw gamers discard their weapons and play as humanitarian workers, assuming a set of responsibilities that included responding to people in crisis, defusing landmines, and submitting to journalists’ interviews. The release raised $176,667 for the ICRC.
The NGO began investigating whether the Geneva and Hague conventions could be applied to video game depictions of war in 2011, calling on governments to impose regulations forcing developers to limit violations like torture, extrajudicial executions, attacks on civilians, and other atrocities if they could not be convinced to do so voluntarily. Facing backlash for spending its time fretting over virtual genocides rather than preventing real ones, the ICRC argued it had plenty of staff to do both and sought to reassure gamers they would not be hauled in front of any war crimes tribunals.