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Little Paper: ICRC and video games: How to not understand multiplayer modes

The 27 September 2013, the International Committee of the Red Cross “lashed out” at games which depict an armed conflict. The ICRC wants a comprehensive lecture of international humanitarian law for gamers who plays such wargames in the mind to teach that war is also regulated and The Committee works with some developers to implement their recommendations into the gameplay. (1/2)

It is a noble wish, but unfortunately their recommendations are more stressful than helpful, especially when we talk about multiplayer game modes which interconnected players around the world where countries do not have same war’s prohibitions. So, this essay will explain difficulties to incorporate such rules with the use of weapons.

Like you know, some weapons are forbidden, such as chemical and biological weapons(3) but some of them do not incur of common ban.

We have the example of nuclear weapons. If we follow the case Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons treated by the International Court of Justice (advisory opinion of the 8 July 1996)(4), the Court itself seemed to not see any general interdiction for the utilization of such weapons at the §§73-74.

In 2021, some countries ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of nuclear weapons(5) like Austria for example. Nevertheless, we must not forget that a treaty or other similar documents are legally binding if we want and only want to according to the article 1b of the Convention on the Law of Treaty (1969) (6) and the article 30 of Dratf article on the Law of Treaty (1966)(7) for states which are not party to the document.

The prohibition is not occurring for Russia, the United State on the United Kingdom because they lay emphasis on that if we follow the ICJ case at the §86.

Now, if we put such recommendations into call of duty, we will have inequalities among players. The Austrian ones will not have access to the nuke’s killstreak while Russian, British, and American players will could use.

The same case for video games that allow the use of antipersonnel mines and/or cluster bombs. French and Germans players will not allowed to use them because their respective administrations ratified the Convention on Cluster Munition(8) and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Product and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction(9) while Americans players will not have to worry.    

At the end of the day, It will create disparities among gamers during multiplayer matches unless publishers allocate servers where matchmaking is based on countries international engagements…

In conclusion, the willing to a better understanding to the rules of war into video games is understandable but the practicality of such thing will be more stressful than helpful because players are not subjugating by the same rules like I demonstrate with the case of nuclear weapons, antipersonnel mines, and cluster bombs.  


  1. ICRC, “Video games and Law of War”, ICRC, September 27, 2013,
  2. Maggie Harrison , “Red Cross challenges gamers not to commit any war crimes”, The Byte, April 21, 2023

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