In the early days of video games, it was easy to spot an item that could heal your character again. Whether in Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, or Battlefield 1942, if you picked up a package with a red cross on it, your health improved after a few seconds.
Nowadays, however, you can hardly find the clearly marked medipack with the red cross in any game. It turns out there’s a reason why.
The symbol with the red cross should never have appeared in video games to begin with. Although the symbol seems quite simple, it isn’t subject to public domain. Instead, the symbol is protected by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Developers must rethink
The circumstance became clear at the beginning of 2017 when the developers of the building strategy game Prison Architect had to remove the red cross from their game via an update. Until then, the symbol was visible on ambulances in the game, even if it was only displayed very small. Other games also dispensed with the familiar symbol for life energy or medicine.
For example, in the 2001 remake of the first-person shooter Halo, the red cross on medipacks was replaced by a simple “H.”
Criticism from players
Gamers initially reacted with incomprehension. But the Red Cross explained in a statement that the symbol had a much greater meaning. It stands for humanity all over the world and should show people where they can expect help and protection. It is often vital for aid workers that the Red Cross is identified and respected as an aid organisation.
Therefore, they oppose the use of the symbol in other ways in video games. The majority of developers have since refrained from using the symbol in games of all genres.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on PCWorld’s sister site PCWelt, and was translated from German to English.