Beyond the Call of Duty: why shouldn’t videogame players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers?

30-06-2012 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 886, by Ben Clarke, Christian Rouffaer, and François Sénéchaud


Video games are influencing users’ perceptions about what soldiers are permitted to do during war. They may also be influencing the way combatants actually behave during today’s armed conflicts. While highly entertaining escapism for millions of players, some video games create the impression that prohibited acts, such as torture and extrajudicial killing are standard behaviour. The authors argue that further integration of international humanitarian law (IHL) can improve knowledge of the rules of war among millions of players, including aspiring recruits and deployed soldiers. This, in turn, offers the promise of greater respect for IHL on tomorrow’s battlefields.

Keywords: video games, influence, behaviour, undermining effect, applicability, challenges, messages, obligation, initiative, trivializing.


Ben Clarke is an associate professor, University of Notre Dame Australia, and former adviser at the Civil Society Relations Unit,International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Christian Rouffaer is adviser at the Unit for Relations with Armed Forces, Division for the Integration and Promotion of the Law, ICRC.

François Sénéchaud is the head of division for the Integration and Promotion of the Law, ICRC.