Friday, December 4, 2009

Study published on human rights in video games, Solid Snake scheduled to testify at interminable length before UN General Assembly

Here's a rather odd story: two Swiss organizations, children's right's group Pro Juventute and an international criminal justice organization called TRIAL have released a study on portrayal of war crimes and human rights violations in various games, including Army of Two, Battlefield: Bad Company, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. You can read the report here (PDF).

The people doing the study are clearly hampered by their limited understanding of both gaming in general and the particular games being examined, but I actually think this is an intriguing idea. It could be quite interesting to see more games where things like rules of engagement, international law, the effects of collateral damage, and so on play a prominent role in how the game is played. Among other things, it might provide the opportunity for all sorts of interesting player dilemmas; more interesting than the usual "saint or sociopath" decisions that games promising "moral choices" have usually offered, at any rate.

That said, I just hope that the mainstream media doesn't take an interest in how video games handle issues like international law and war crimes, given how it usually deals with alleged links between games and violence. Attributing every violent crime committed by a minor to the possibility that he may at some point have been within the same county as a copy of Grand Theft Auto is bad enough. I don't want to open the paper and see the headline:

Rogue Russian general launches nuclear strike on United States
30 million dead in bloodiest day in human history; General Ivan Vasiliev reputed to be fanatical Russian nationalist, Civilization IV player

That would probably be bad for the industry.

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