WTF?! Video game footage claiming to be real incidents, especially those involving conflict, is far from a new phenomenon. This year, after the war in Ukraine, this practice has increased, and Arma 3 gameplay is often used as fake footage. Now the developer Bohemia Interactive has turned to the distribution of these videos and explained how to distinguish real videos from fakes.
Czech studio writes that the sheer amount of user-generated content and mods, many of them related to Russian and Ukrainian hardware, available for Arma 3 makes it the perfect game for making fake videos. “While it’s flattering that Arma 3 simulates modern military conflicts so realistically, we certainly don’t like that it could be mistaken for real-life action footage and used as military propaganda,” said Pavel Krzyszka, PR- manager of Bohemia Interactive.
Krzyszka said footage from Arma 3 has been used as fake footage from Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine and even between India and Pakistan. But it was a particularly popular method for creating clips purportedly filmed during the Ukrainian-Russian war. They often go viral and are sometimes featured in legitimate media that believe they are real.
A video circulated in October purporting to show Ukrainian military strikes against Russian army tanks turned out to be Arma 3 footage. rocket. There was also a case in 2018 when Russian TV aired a clip of Arma 3 that it claimed was real footage from the Syrian war (below).
Bohemia Interactive has attempted to tag these videos by platform owners such as YouTube, but such actions are often ineffective. “We have found that the best way to address this issue is to actively partner with mainstream media and fact-checkers (such as AFP, Reuters, and others) who have greater reach and the ability to effectively combat the spread of fake news.”
The developer gave a number of tips on how to distinguish real footage from Arma 3 gameplay videos:
Even older smartphones can shoot videos in HD quality. Fake videos are usually of much lower quality and are intentionally pixelated and blurry to hide the fact that they are from a video game.
To add to the dramatic effect, these videos are often not filmed in-game. The authors capture the computer screen with the game running in low quality and with exaggerated camera shake.
- Often happens in the dark/at night
The footage is often dark to hide the lack of detail in a video game scene.
The sound effects in the game often differ from reality.
- Doesn’t show people in motion
While a game can simulate the movement of military vehicles relatively realistically, capturing people in motion in a natural way is still very difficult even for the most modern games.
- Heads Up Display (HUD) elements visible
Game UIs are sometimes visible, such as weapon selection, ammo counters, vehicle status, in-game messages, etc. They usually appear at the edges or corners of the frame.
- Unnatural particle effects
Even the most modern games have issues with the natural rendering of explosions, smoke, fire, and dust, and how they are affected by environmental conditions. In particular, look for oddly divided clouds.
- Unrealistic vehicles, uniforms, equipment
People with advanced knowledge of military technology may recognize the use of unrealistic military means for a given conflict. For example, in one widely circulated fake video, a US C-RAM air defense system shoots down an American A-10 attack aircraft. Units may also have non-authentic insignia, camouflage, etc.
Krzyska concluded by asking Arma 3 players and content creators to be held accountable for their in-game footage, such as explicitly stating that the footage they post is from the video game.
Arma 3 is not the only game used to simulate real events. A Pakistani politician believed that in 2019, a GTA V video of a plane landing and nearly hitting an oil tanker on the runway was real. There was also a case where the Russian Ministry of Defense insisted that images from a mobile game were “irrefutable proof” of US assistance to ISIS in 2017.