Social media users are attempting to pass off videos of Bohemia Interactive’s military shooter Arma 3 as real-life footage of the on-going Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which erupted into open war this week. Several of these mocked-up videos have circulated on Tik-Tok and Xitter, one of them purporting to show a member of the Hamas group shooting down Israeli helicopters. Bohemia Interactive have now released a statement calling on their community to publish and share Arma 3 footage responsibly, while offering advice on how to spot a fake.
“With the tragic events currently unfolding in the Middle East, we feel it is vital to share once again our statement concerning the use of Arma 3 as a source of fake news footage,” the developer posted on Xitter this week (thanks, PCGamer). “It’s disheartening for us to see the game we all love being used in this way. While we have found ways to tackle this issue somewhat effectively by closely cooperating with leading fact-checking agencies, sadly we can’t mitigate it entirely.”
Bohemia have republished a guide explaining how to distinguish Arma 3 gameplay from real-life bloodshed – it was originally created during the opening weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which gave rise to similar fake videos. It’s a useful document, though it does veer into self-promotion, with Bohemia taking the opportunity to hail Arma 3 as “a unique open sandbox platform”.
The guide notes that one of Arma’s “pillars” is “how open the games are to user customization and user-generated content”, with modders able to “create whole new terrains, ground vehicles, aircraft, weapons, uniforms, equipment, and scenarios”.
“This means that players of Arma 3 can recreate and simulate any historic, present, or future conflict in great detail (thanks to its advanced game engine),” the statement continues. “This unique freedom of the Arma 3 platform comes with a downside: videos taken from Arma 3, especially when the game is modified, are quite capable of spreading fake news.”
The developers have put together a list of signs that a supposed real-life video of a military conflict is mocked-up Arma 3 footage. Here it is in full:
– Very low resolution
Even dated smartphones have the ability to provide videos in HD quality. Fake videos are usually of much lower quality, and are intentionally pixelated and blurry to hide the fact that they’re taken from a video game.
– Shaky camera
To add dramatic effect, these videos are often not captured in-game. Authors film a computer screen with the game running in low quality and with an exaggerated camera shake.
– Often takes place in the dark / at night
The footage is often dark in order to hide the video game scene’s insufficient level of detail.
– Mostly without sound
In-game sound effects are often distinguishable from reality.
– Doesn’t feature people in motion
While the game can simulate the movement of military vehicles relatively realistically, capturing natural looking humans in motion is still very difficult, even for the most modern of games.
– Heads Up Display (HUD) elements visible
Sometimes the game’s user interfaces, such as weapon selection, ammunition counters, vehicle status, in-game messages, etc. are visible. These commonly appear at the edges or in the corners of the footage.
– Unnatural particle effects
Even the most modern games have a problem with naturally depicting explosions, smoke, fire, and dust, as well as how they’re affected by environmental conditions. Look for oddly separated cloudlets in particular.
– Unrealistic vehicles, uniforms, equipment
People with advanced military equipment knowledge can recognize the use of unrealistic military assets for a given conflict. For instance, in one widely spread fake video, the US air defense system C-RAM shoots down a US A-10 ground attack plane. Units can also display non-authentic insignias, camouflage, etc.
There’s further comment from Bohemia Interactive’s PR manager Pavel Křižka. “While it’s flattering that Arma 3 simulates modern war conflicts in such a realistic way, we are certainly not pleased that it can be mistaken for real-life combat footage and used as war propaganda,” he wrote, adding that Bohemia’s efforts to flag fake videos for platform holders such as Youtube have been “very ineffective”, because “with every video taken down, ten more are uploaded each day”.
Bohemia have found more success by working with big media outlets and fact-checkers like Reuters. The developers are also calling on Arma 3 players and video-makers to minimise ambiguity by avoiding clickbait video titles and stating clearly that their footage is of Arma 3.
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