Watch our video with typical features used in "fake news" videos.
Developers from the independent Czech game development studio Bohemia Interactive would like to address the recent circulation of videos which were originally taken from their game Arma 3, and falsely used as footage from real-life conflicts, mainly from the current war in Ukraine or Israeli–Palestinian conflict. These user-made videos have the potential to go viral, and are massively shared by social media users; sometimes even by various mainstream media or official government institutions worldwide. The Arma 3 dev team would like to take this opportunity to point out how the general public can distinguish such in-game videos from real-world footage.
Arma 3 is more than just a military simulation game, it is a unique open sandbox platform. The original game takes place in the middle of a futuristic fictional conflict in 2035. A pillar of the Arma series, however, is how open the games are to user customization and user-generated content (modding). Modders can create whole new terrains, ground vehicles, aircraft, weapons, uniforms, equipment, and scenarios. They can then share their creations with a community of players. For instance, as of today, there are more than 20.000 Arma 3 mods available to download via the Steam Workshop. 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). 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.
"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. It has happened in the past (Arma 3 videos allegedly depicted conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, and even between India and Pakistan), but nowadays this content has gained traction in regard to the current conflict in Ukraine. We've been trying to fight against such content by flagging these videos to platform providers (FB, YT, TW, IG etc.), but it's very ineffective. With every video taken down, ten more are uploaded each day. We found the best way to tackle this is to actively cooperate with leading media outlets and fact-checkers (such as AFP, Reuters, and others), who have better reach and the capacity to fight the spreading of fake news footage effectively." says Pavel Křižka, PR Manager of Bohemia Interactive.
How to distinguish in-game videos from real-world footage (tips from the developers)
- 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.
Lastly, we would like to ask the players and content creators of Arma 3 to use their game footage responsibly. When sharing such materials, please refrain from using "clickbait" video titles, and always state clearly that the video originated from a video game and is not depicting real-life events. We have seen many Arma players pointing out mistakenly identified footage, which helps viewers understand what they’re seeing.
Thank you for helping!