Why The Red Cross Shouldn’t Complain about Prison Architect

Earlier today, Prison Architect developers Introversion Software received a message from the British Red Cross about their use of a red cross on the in-game ambulances. This message basically stated that the ‘emblem is restricted under the Geneva Conventions’ and it was against the law to use it in in games or other media without the permission of the organisation.

No, we’re not joking. This really happened.

And it is as absurd as it sounds.

Yes I know there are good reasons for this icon to be restricted. Or at least, there are in the ‘real world’. That way, it gives the Red Cross the right to stop say, mercenaries using it to disguise themselves as medics or hoaxers setting up fake charity sites to scam people out of their money.

That’s all well and good. I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t be able to stop that stuff.

But in fiction? Trying to restrict things like this is ludicrous.


Because by definition, a realistic work of fiction is going to include trademarks and signage by real companies and organisations. That’s not debatable, that’s a fact. It’s one of the things that can make a fictional work more plausible than it’d otherwise be.

After all, we don’t use ‘Searchwise’ to search for internet sites in the real world. We use Google or (very rarely) Bing. A pub or off-license doesn’t sell generic ‘Cola’, it sells Coke and Pepsi. Website developers use browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox to test their work, not generic brand ‘web browser’.

By including these brands, you make the world more realistic and more plausible for the people reading, watching or playing the work in question.

And the same goes here. That Red Cross symbol? It’s basically become the default signage for a medic. In both the real world and fiction.

So it only makes logical sense that Prison Architect would use it on ambulances. I mean, are you telling me it’s more realistic if your company doesn’t exist in fiction? Because that’s insane.

But what about the Geneva Convention you may ask?

Well, what about it?

As far as I know, the medics in games like this aren’t breaking it in-universe. And even if they were, why does it matter? It’s fiction; it’s not real. You wouldn’t try and shut down a story because it involves a fictional serial killer or other horrible criminal, so why does it matter how a logo is used in a story? Surely that’d be the job of the in-universe Red Cross to complain about, right?

But still, I think trademarks and signage laws shouldn’t apply to the content of fictional works, and this sort of ludicrous case is just more evidence for that claim. Let’s hope these threats and lawsuits die down soon, and creators can work on their games in peace.


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