Bohemia Interactive have released a statement urging Arma 3 players to fight the spread of fake news after clips from from the game were spreading viral misinformation. Viewers were led to believe that videos of gameplay were actually skirmishes from the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In the modern age, faked footage has become depressingly common. In a recent statement, the studio - which is based in the Czech Republic - shared news that it has partnered with fact-checking agencies. The statement goes on to share several pointers for distinguishing game footage from reality.
While it would be easy to blame the developers for providing the means to create this footage, it should be noted that the original game takes place in a fictional conflict set in 2035. Modders can create original content - vehicles with a country's flag prominently displayed, for example - for others to add to their copies of the game, which has always been a 'staple of the series'. There doesn't seem to be any plans to crack down and moderate the content shared on the Steam workshop at this time.
Listed below, the developers' tips for identifying fake footage include several giveaways that may not be obvious to the non-gaming public. Worst of all, this isn't a new phenomenon. Fake news was spread about the Russia-Ukraine war previously, also using Arma 3. Russia themselves have also been caught creating 'deep fake' videos of Ukraine's President Zelenskyy to spread propaganda.
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. 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 defence system C-RAM shoots down a US A-10 ground attack plane. Units can also display non-authentic insignias, camouflage, etc.
As always, staying vigilant and sceptical of videos shared online is recommended.