Hinckley Institute

03.28.24 Modern Lawfare: War and Video Games

March 28, 2024

12- 1 PM

Hinckley Institute of Politics,
260 South Central Campus Drive,
Room 2018,
Salt Lake City, UT, 84112
United States


Presented as part of the Francis Wormuth Lecture Series

Forum offered online and in the Hinckley Institute caucus room - Room 2018, Gardner Commons.


Modern Lawfare: War and Video Games

The changing character of armed conflict, combined with the transformation of the global media landscape, has fundamentally altered the experience of war for Western audiences. Although physically distanced from its cost to a historically unprecedented degree, the virtual proximity of the average citizen to war has never been closer. Military first-person shooter (FPS) gaming is a critical component of this dynamic, functioning as the principle means through which to consume and interact with war for a large and growing segment of the population. This influence is problematic. Although exceptions exist, military FPSs typically both reflect and sustain the “war is hell” myth: a conviction, reinforced through interactive gameplay, that the rules of war cannot, and indeed should not, apply to the battlefield. We argue that a more complete and nuanced integration of the laws of war into this medium would help shift popular understandings of armed conflict, and the legal restraints imposed on it, in a more positive direction and, at the same time, allow game designers to better fulfil their commitment to a “realistic” depiction of the battlefield.

Presenter Info:

Sebastian Kaempf is an Associate Professor in Peace and Conflict Studies at the School of Political Science and International Studies.

His expertise lies at the intersection between International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies, with specialization in the areas of international security, ethics and the laws of war, and information technology relating to global politics and violent conflict. Specifically, his research focuses on two areas:

The first concerns the relationship between ethics and the laws of war in the context of the transformation of violent conflict. Here, he is interested in the ways in which historic and contemporary wars - waged under conditions of asymmetry - have impacted on the relationship between the norms of casualty-aversion and civilian protection.

The second area focuses on the role a transforming global media landscape is playing in violent conflicts. Here, his research focuses on how historic and current conflicts are being waged in and through media and information technology, with a particular emphasis on the geopolitics of cyberspace, embedded news reporting, mass surveillance and big data mining, non-state armed groups, and the influence of the Pentagon and CIA in the entertainment sector.

Dr Kaempf received his PhD at the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University (UK). He holds a BSc and MSc (Econ) in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).





Pizza will be distributed to attendees at the beginning of the event. Please plan to arrive at the venue promptly.

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