For years, developer Bohemia Interactive has been known for its military simulation arma 3 confronted with footage from the game being used as disinformation in fake news. Be it out of ignorance for reporting, spreading false propaganda or to generate quick clicks on Youtube. Already with the predecessor arma 2 had to serve game scenes for a BBC documentary on the IRA.
Fake videos of various war events around the world have appeared again and again. With the possibility that players can create their own modifications and create a whole open-world sandbox with landscapes, vehicles, planes, uniforms, weapons and entire scenarios from a simple military simulation, this is also readily exploited accordingly. Pavel KrizkaPR manager of Bohemia Interactive explains the problem:
It might be considered flattering in a way that Arma 3 can simulate modern wartime conflicts in such a realistic way. However, we are less than thrilled that the game is being confused with actual combat footage and being used as war propaganda. This has already happened in the past.
For example, Arma 3 game footage allegedly portrayed conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine and between India and Pakistan. With the current war of aggression from Russia on Ukraine, such videos are increasingly circulating again. Bohemia Interactive would therefore like to sensitize the players and the media more so that they notice the difference in how these fake videos are created.
Currently, these videos have received impetus in connection with the conflict in Ukraine. We have already attempted to take action against such content by reporting it to platform operators (FB, YT, TW, IG, etc.). Unfortunately, this has proven to be very ineffective. With every deleted video, ten new ones are uploaded. We think the best way to solve this problem is to work with leading media outlets and fact-checkers (like AFP, Reuters and more). They have more reach and more capacity to combat the spread of fake news video footage.
So Pavel Křižka continues. In order to distinguish the fake videos from real videos, the developers created a video and a list that shows the typical characteristics of such fake videos.
- Very low resolution: Even older smartphones can record videos in HD quality. Fake videos are often of significantly lower quality and are intentionally pixelated and blurred to hide that they are from a video game.
- Shaky Camera: To create a more dramatic effect, these videos are often not recorded in-game. Authors film a computer screen with exaggerated camera shake while the game is running on low quality.
- Often plays in the dark / at night: The footage is often dark to hide the low level of detail in the video game scenes.
- Mostly without sound: In-game sound effects can often be distinguished from reality.
- Without people moving: While the game can reasonably realistically simulate the movement of military vehicles, depicting people in motion in a natural-looking manner remains difficult, even in the most modern games.
- Heads Up Display (HUD) elements visible: Sometimes user interfaces with weapon selection, ammo counter, vehicle status, in-game messages, etc. are visible. These usually appear at the edges or in the corners of the recording.
- Unnatural Particle Effects: Even the most modern games struggle to represent explosions, smoke, fire and dust naturally and how they react to their environment. Pay particular attention to strangely separated clouds.
- Unrealistic Vehicles, Uniforms, Gear: Those with knowledge of military equipment can spot unnatural material in a given conflict. For example, in a particularly popular fake video, the US C-RAM air defense system shoots down an American A-10 fighter jet. Units may also display inauthentic insignia, camouflage, or similar.
Finally, the developers ask the players to publish their videos responsibly. This means avoiding titles that suggest clickbait and pointing out that these are scenes from a video game and not true events. At the same time, they thank all the players who helped educate others about these fake videos.