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Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

Play by the Rules

Bronze Honor in Event & Experiential


The Geneva Conventions were adopted more than 70 years ago to protect the humanitarian rights of individuals in conflict zones around the world. But today, awareness of the Rules of War lags for young people. The ICRC needed to drive awareness and educate younger audiences—especially future soldiers.

We turned to Twitch, which hosts 31M daily active users—more than 70% of which are between18¬–34—to educate young people through gaming entertainment. And as 50% of newly enlisted soldiers play video games, the gaming platform was a perfect match to reach those on the battlefield.

The International Red Cross (ICRC) upholds the Rules of War to protect the humanitarian rights of people in conflict zones all around the world. But these rules are being broken as the world watches, in dozens of conflicts happening right now, from the Ukraine to the Central African Republic.

For this campaign, the ICRC sought help raising awareness and educating people about those rules. We aimed to make a difference in real life by reaching soldiers who could find themselves on the battlefield, in situations requiring a clear understanding of the Rules of War.

Strategy and Execution

Every day, millions of gamers play war right from their couch. In first-person-shooter games (FPS), players act as soldiers but play without rules or consequences.

A large portion of these gamers actually become soldiers. In fact, over 50% of newly enlisted soldiers play video games. Recruiters value gamers’ reflexes and hand-eye skills. But today’s online FPS players also had to learn team communication, cooperation, and strategic problem-solving under pressure. Strong players value greater difficulty and realistic challenges. Anda surprising number of players watch, share and talk about gameplay in real time, across the world:66% chat to friends on game devices, 41% share gameplay images/videos and 45% watch livestreams on Twitch.

To tap into this community before they ever reached the battlefield, we partnered with gamers from the top FPS games. We challenged them to Play by the Rules and rally their robust followings to do the same.

We created Play by the Rules, a campaign that challenged gamers to play FPS by the real Rules of War and help make a difference on battlefields IRL.

To bring the challenge to life, we worked with top gamers from the most popular FPS games: Pub G, Call of Duty, Fortnite, Escape from Tarkov & Rainbow 6: Siege. These gamers are key members of their community, with a collective following in the millions—many of whom are in the right demographic to one day become soldiers themselves.

Our gamers tested their skills and played by the rules in a livestream on Twitch, hosted by an expert from the ICRC. In the livestream we also debuted a custom Fortnite mode, with the Rules of War built directly into the flow of the game.

The Twitch livestream was the cornerstone of the campaign, complemented by a social push from the ICRC channels and the gamers who would be streaming live. A microsite also added context, as well as detailing the Rules of War and ways to augment gameplay to follow these rules.

The event itself ran for about 5.5 hours on Twitch, with each of our five gamers getting an hour to test out the new style of gameplay live. As each gamer raided the stream, they brought with them thousands of their loyal fans. Their audiences watched as they implemented this whole new set of rules, and gameplay was gently guided by our host MC from the ICRC. His knowledge of both the gaming world and International Humanitarian Law balanced the tone incredibly well and ensured we were talking in an authentic way about both playing war games and war itself.



The livestream alone had 143,618 unique viewers—756 times more than ICRC’s current Twitch follower count—who actively engaged with the experience. 1,170 chat messages were sent by 176unique viewers, and as the livestream progressed, more and more commenters engaged with the ICRC by asking questions about the Rules of War. Viewers started to demonstrate that they understood, with one commenter saying, “Kudos to the ICRC for this amazing project to make the rules of war understandable for everyone.” To further drive engagement, a microsite was launched and in the six days that followed, over 8,400 people visited, showing further advocacy of the message.

In addition, over 3 days, our influencers’ videos received a 99% view rate, generating 47K video views. They also drove day-over-day increases in impressions, including a 4X increase day of the event. Finally, through paid media campaigns, the campaign received over 3 million impressions.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Wunderman Thompson Seattle (now VML), International Committee of the Red Cross


Entry Credits