Please stop doing war crimes in multiplayer games, it's upsetting the Red Cross

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Red Team 141
(Image credit: Activision)

If my actions in videogames count, I might be one of the worst criminals to ever exist. I've shot enemies while they're down, caught civilians in my crossfire, and reduced whole towns to rubble. All thoroughly ungentlemanly conduct, and it turns out the International Red Cross is sick of it. 

Spotted by Kotaku, the world-renowned humanitarian organisation has drawn up a set of rules for us to follow in online FPSes, and is "challenging you to play FPS by the real Rules of War, to show everyone that even wars have rules". There are four rules in total, which are:

  • No Thirsting: I thought this was about Instagram likes at first, but no, this actually means you can't shoot people while they're down, as that would violate real-life rules of war that protect prisoners from "violence, intimidation,  and ill treatment".
  • No Targeting Non-violent NPCs: If your favourite FPS features non-hostile NPCs, you're gonna have to fit your war in around them and leave them unharmed. Real-life statutes protect civilians from attack, after all.
  • No targeting civilian buildings: You can't blow up their houses, either. Luckily, architectural deformation hasn't been much of a thing since Red Faction: Guerilla, so it's probably pretty easy not to violate this one.
  • Use medkits on everyone: In real life, the rules of war stipulate that the wounded on both sides must be cared for, so prepare to baffle your opponents as you crouch to stitch them up immediately after blowing their kneecaps off.

As part of the campaign, the ICRC actually signed up a few streamers to its Twitch channel in order to play games like PUBG, Warzone, Fortnite, Tarkov, and Rainbow 6 Siege while following the rules on April 15. Plus, it helped make a special Fortnite mode to help you "Learn to follow REAL Rules of War" in-game.

So it's all quite noble, as strange as it sounds, and is really nothing more than a way to raise awareness of the real-life rules that govern—or are meant to govern—military conflict. Still, I can't help but feel like there's an unintentional and perverse message here: Anyone actually following these laws to the letter in a game of COD or Fortnite is almost certainly going to lose. 

Call me a cynic, but in a game of, say, Warzone, I wouldn't put my money on the squad that's nobly refusing to execute its fallen enemies and keeps attempting to heal the opponents it knocks down. So while players might learn all there is to know about the rules of war, I can't help but wonder if they might also take on board the message that anyone serious about winning should jettison them at the first opportunity. I imagine that's probably not the lesson the Red Cross wants players to take away.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.