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Prison management simulator Prison Architect has made a minor change to their game’s ambulances as a result of being notified that they were in violation of a portion of the Geneva Conventions. No, really. The issue was detailed in a video released by the developers and expanded upon in discussion on the /r/PrisonArchitect subreddit. If you have a half hour to spend, you can listen to Producer Mark Morris and Designer Chris Delay have a chat about the issue at length in the video:

Prison Architect ran afoul of portions of the Geneva Conventions relating to the protected status of the Red Cross symbol such as Article 53 of the First 1949 Geneva Convention:

The use by individuals, societies, firms or companies either public or private, other than those entitled thereto under the present Convention, of the emblem or the designation ” Red Cross ” or ” Geneva Cross ” , or any sign or designation constituting an imitation thereof, whatever the object of such use, and irrespective of the date of its adoption, shall be prohibited at all times.

Introversion Software subsequently received a letter from the Red Cross politely asking them to change the red cross on the ambulances in-game. Article 53 may not have been the specific passage cited; there is quite a bit of text determining who can use the Red Cross symbol and in what specific ways they can use it. This is further complicated by the fact that not everyone has signed and ratified all portions of the Geneva Conventions.This may explain the proliferation of the red cross symbol in gaming media elsewhere and why this hasn’t seemed to have been an issue in the United States and other countries.

The developers are headquartered in the United Kingdom which may be related to the issue. A street performer doing a mime act in Glasgow faced similar issues in 2011 due to red crosses on their costume. This may explain the proliferation of the red cross symbol in gaming media elsewhere and why this hasn’t seemed to have been an issue in the United States and other countries.

The developers seemed to be good sports about the issue, going as far as to jokingly refer to themselves as “war criminals” in the description of the YouTube video where the problem with the usage of the Red Cross emblem was detailed at length.

In addition to the Red Cross issue, a portion of the video was used to respond to an article on Vice.com which criticized some of the game’s political message as prisoners were unable to go on strike and halt work. The developers responded that the game’s A.I. treats working in the prison as an optional thing, and they emphasized that the prison in the game is not meant to represent any one specific country.

If you’re like to play the game and you don’t yet own it, you can pick up Prison Architect on Steam for 75% off during the 2016 Steam Winter Sale.

What do you think of the Red Cross sending a polite letter to Introversion Software asking them to change their game in order to comply with the Geneva Convention? Do you feel that the Red Cross symbol ought to be so rigorously protected?


Robert N. Adams

Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!


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