Video game

How video game images are used in propaganda wars

In a video shared on social media, a Ukrainian fighter jet demonstrates unrivaled aerial skill as it weaves around endless volleys of bullets and anti-aircraft fire.

The pilot leans into the wind as the tracer shells narrowly miss. The jet fires to the right as surface-to-air missiles from the battery below fire round after round at the fighter’s silhouette against the twilight Black Sea sky.

“Breaking News” scrolls across the bottom of the screen as the Ukrainian plane fires flares, ducks and rolls in the wake of seemingly endless SAM barrages and heavy-caliber machine gun fire before finally exploding into a fireball in front of the pilot. the chute becomes visible in the dim light of the horizon.

Comments on the video, which has garnered nearly a million views, range from outrage and shock to questioning the veracity of its origins. Users were right to denounce it. The footage is from Arma 3, an open world combat simulator for PC based in the fictional world of Livonia. The 2013 video game published by Czech company Bohemia Interactive pits the NATO countries – whose global influence is in decline – against an alliance of China and Iran in the near future of 2030. It is one of many examples of game footage being touted as real news recently.

Soldiers cross a field as they head towards the objective in this gameplay from Arma 3. Image courtesy of Bohemia Interactive.

At the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rumors swirled that a Ukrainian fighter pilot shot down six Russian planes in a single day of combat, earning him the nickname “the ghost”. of Kyiv”. The images of the urban legend, seen on Twitter, Youtube and Facebook, came from another game, Digital Combat Simulator World, according to the BBC. Swiss developer Eagle Dynamics’ free-to-play air combat simulator takes place in the Caucasus region, mostly over Georgia, which makes its setting similar to that of Arma 3.

Available on Steam, the game features “a flyable Russian Sukhoi Su-25T ground-attack aircraft and the famed North American TF-51D World War II fighter.” Unlike Arma 3, DCSW is an open-world online community classified as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, commonly known as an MMORPG. For its part, Arma 3 has several levels of maps contained with playable goals and objectives and also offers a free play option where players can create their own stages. Some players, such as Youtube creator Compared Comparison, tend to create or recreate their own versions of battles and watch them unfold through a modern lens.

Both Arma 3 and DCSW have active mod communities: online enclaves where users can share batches of homemade code to enhance – or modify – a gameplay experience. Mods can create new gameplay costumes, like making look like an F-22 Raptor like a flying banana, or they can make the experience more realistic, giving the game an edge of reality. Players can learn how to create Arma 3 specific mods directly from its website.

Not all gamers who use mods create them, and several mods are freely available online through forums on Reddit and repository sites like ModDB. Even some official platforms host mods, including major PC game provider Steam, where Arma 3 mods are available for download directly from the Arma 3 store page.

Skilled coders and good mods have easily fooled many online viewers and members of the media into believing that the video game footage is real. Several news outlets mistakenly broadcast images from Arma 3 depicting war scenes in Israel, Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine.

In addition to video game footage, images and audio from previous conflicts have surfaced on TikTok and other media platforms, including cable news. The model grew steadily after game engines – the software that performs the complicated coding – became more advanced over the years and technology.

Several game developers, such as Naughty Dog (Uncharted, The Last of Us), NetherRealm Studios (Mortal Kombat series, Injustice series) and Ready at Dawn (God of War, The Order: 1886), use motion capture on actors for a more cinematic gameplay experience.

A few ways to tell real footage from video game footage: Beware of footage that contains artifacts. Artifacts – a rendering error commonly seen on objects or buildings – tend to appear in rendered environments where surfaces and textures appear somewhat smudged. Landscaping, such as trees and grass, can appear two-dimensional and too angular. Atmospheric effects, such as lighting, dust particles, and wind, can feel forced and unnatural. Finally, planes and guns that seemingly fire endless rounds without reloading or jamming should also be treated with skepticism.

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