The Red Cross, known for its humanitarian work and the “red cross” symbol, has targeted the developers of the hit game Prison Architect for violating the Geneva Conventions of War.
Apparently, the usage of a red cross symbol on vehicles or health kits is an unlawful usage of a symbol. This particular cross, contrary to popular opinion, is not actually part of the public domain, but rather is a protected symbol by international law. Some governments have even adopted measures prohibiting its usage outside that of the Red Cross.
Where Prison Architect went wrong consists of a very tiny, five pixel-wide symbol used on the paramedic vehicle and medkit found within the game. Because the Prison Architect developers live in Great Britain, the use of the “red cross” symbol actually violates a national law passed back in 1957.
Prison Architect is far from the first game to have issues with the use of the symbol. Halo: Combat Evolved, Half-Life 2, and even the classic game Doom have all been pointed out as being violators of the Geneva Conventions.
To make matters humorous, one of the Prison Architect developers told PC Gamer he “donated to the British Red Cross,” and because of that, “the situation has an interesting wrinkle: Some tiny sliver of his own charitable givings has fueled the action taken against him. ‘I’m not saying I’m going to stop, but until I get some kind of understanding of how much of my money they’re using to pursue infringement claims, I’m starting to think, maybe they’ve got a little bit more money than they need.'”
Prison Architect is only one of the latest in the Red Cross’ targeting of video games in general. In articles and studies produced by the charitable organization, they have encouraged game developers and law makers to introduce consequences for violations of international law and war crimes into games. One of the reasons for the Red Cross’ concern over the illegitimate use of the symbol is the loss of its recognition for neutrality and protection of Red Cross personnel.
In an article by the Canadian Red Cross, the organization states “the red cross emblem is an important symbol of humanitarian protection. It is recognized as such in both Canadian and international law which prohibit its unauthorized use. Misuse of this valued symbol distorts its meaning and its protective value for victims of conflict and the aid workers that assist them.”
According to Techdirt, “One possible course of action could be to encourage game designers/producers to incorporate IHL [International Humanitarian Law] in the development and design of video games, while another could be to encourage governments to adopt laws and regulations to regulate this ever-growing industry.”
The ever-popular Call of Duty franchise would be one violator of any legislation passed regarding war crimes in video games. Torture, prisoner execution, and unilateral aggression against unsanctioned targets (not to forget the infamous airport terrorism scene in Modern Warfare 2) are all parts of the series. These are all clear-cut violations of international war, what would obviously be labelled as war crimes were they to occur in real life.
Mark Morris and Chris Delay, the developers of Prison Architect, did not try and fight the clear-cut claim. Instead, they simply changed the color of the cross symbol in the game from red to green.
In Morris’ interview with PC Gamer, he points out “Lots of people donate money and the assumption is that that money is going to treating [people in need] and it turns out that a portion of that money is going to lawyers writing letters to videogame companies who are apparently abusing use of the red cross symbol,’ Morris says. ‘How much money do they spend every year enforcing their abuse of the red cross emblem…?'”
So what are your thoughts on the Red Cross’ targeting game developers over the use of the “red cross” symbol in video games? Is it really worth being considered a war crime? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]