Arma 3, the hardcore infantry warfare simulation from Bohemia Interactive, has donated more than $176,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The developer, whose legacy game engines are also used to train active-duty troops around the world, shared the proceeds from its latest piece of downloadable content, called The Laws of War. The narrative module was a special project that hoped to instill an understanding of international humanitarian law (IHL) in its players. That includes education on the Geneva Convention and other international treaties that define war crimes such as summary execution, the unfair treatment of prisoners and the destruction of civilian targets in a warzone.
The module resulted in part from a public relations disaster that was kicked off by an ICRC study on war crimes as portrayed in video games. From our article on former Swiss artillery officer and current ICRC employee Christian Rouffaer:
[Rouffaer] would spend the next two months, sometimes up to six hours a day, cataloging the war crimes perpetrated by military forces in modern video games.
His research, delivered as an aside during the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland, led to an avalanche of bad press. Several media organizations went so far as to report that the ICRC was looking to prosecute an estimated 600 million gamers for virtual war crimes. The most damning article, an opinion piece from conservative commentator Craig Berg in Australia’sNational Times, asked if the ICRC had “virtually lost the plot.”
Rouffaer and his team were able to spin that disaster into a series of dialogues with many game developers around the world. But it was Bohemia Interactive, makers of the Arma series, that took the message to heart.
Laws of War puts players in role of a non-combatant tasked with clearing a battlefield of mines and munitions after a war. It seeks to tell the story of an urban battle from both sides of the front lines, and includes vignettes where players take on the role of the unarmed civilians caught in the crossfire.
”We knew this DLC’s theme might seem a bit unusual,” said Bohemia Interactive’s CEO, Marek Spanel, “but we also felt that it has a rightful place in a game like Arma 3. At the same time, our community normally expects more traditional content [that] you’d see in a military game, such as new weapons, tanks, and helicopters. That has made it even more amazing to see the immense level of player support for the Laws of War DLC, which really shows again how both games and the gaming audience have matured.
“If you also consider that some of our players are in the military or might pursue a military career in the future, then we’re glad this DLC has been able to increase awareness for this important topic. And being able to also make a financial contribution to the ICRC’s efforts is a great bonus.”