In my review of Grand Theft Auto V, I pointed out that one of the few missteps I felt Rockstar Games made with the title is including the mandatory torture scene, in which you're forced to extract information from an informant by yanking a tooth out with pliers, bashing his arm with a pipe wrench, electrocuting him with a car battery, and water boarding. My issue with the mission was that Rockstar Games doesn't give the gamer the option to skip over the controversial scene. As far as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is concerned, however, scenes like this would merit some form of consequence.
Officially, the U.S. government and military don't torture informants because it would be considered a war crime. Some other countries and organizations do, and what the ICRC wants is for game developers to include virtual consequences for people's actions and decisions, just as it would be in real life.
"Gamers should be rewarded for respecting the law of armed conflict and there should be virtual penalties for serious violations of the law of armed conflict, in other words war crimes," the ICRC argues. "This already exists in several conflict simulation games. Game scenarios should not reward players for actions that in real life would be considered war crimes."
It's an interesting proposition and one that deviates from the usual, "In-game violence is bad, mmkay?" argument. Rather than pitch that game developers design titles that have everyone holding hands singing songs of peace, the ICRC simply wants certain atrocities to be more realistically depicted in terms of what the consequences would be. I say "simply," but it's really not that simple. To go back to the torture scene, coding in consequences wouldn't fit the theme of the mission, which entails a bunch of dirty government officials and protagonists with loose morals in a satirical game,
It might be easier to remove such scenes altogether, but it would ruin the game experience, and that's not what the ICRC is calling for anyway. It's not a censorship issue -- the ICRC is fine with a developer's decision to include torture, deliberate attacks on civilians, killing of prisoners or the wounded, attacks on medical personnel and facilities, and so forth -- the issue the ICRC has is that without realistic consequences, these scenarios could lead to trivialization of serious violations of the law of armed conflict.
"Sanitizing video games of such acts is not realistic. Violations occur on real battlefields and can therefore be included in video games. The ICRC believes it is useful for players to learn from rewards and punishments incorporated into the game, about what is acceptable and what is prohibited in war," the ICRC says.
The ICRC says it's currently working with game developers to help them accurately incorporate the laws of armed conflict in their games. I find myself okay with this, so long as the ICRC doesn't start lobbying to make this kind of thing a requirement, which would then encroach on the creative freedom of game developers.
Give the full source link a once over and let us know what you think about this.