Bohemia Interactive, developer of military simulation game Arma 3, has asked fans to watch out for edited in-game videos being shared around social media that are falsely labelled as real-world war footage.
Specifically, Bohemia has called for players and content creators to "use their game footage responsibly", "refrain from using clickbait video titles" and "always state clearly that the video originated from a video game" rather than footage from a real-life conflict.
Arma 3 gameplay videos have a history of being mistaken for real-world footage - even by professional news organisations - and this problem has only increased since the current conflict in Ukraine has begun, Bohemia said.
"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," Bohemia's PR boss Pavel Křižka wrote. "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, 10 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."
Bohemia has issued a guide for fans looking to distinguish between real-world footage and in-game Arma 3 videos. Things to look out for include "very low resolution", a "shaky camera" and incidents shown taking place at night to hide Arma 3's "insufficient level of detail". A video version of this with examples is included above.
The developer goes on to note that featuring "people in motion" is something Arma 3 struggles with - so the absence of that is another clue. "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," Bohemia wrote.
If all of this sounds obvious, it's worth pointing out how far Arma footage has spread in the past - including on TV networks which should have known better. In 2012, Ofcom slammed ITV for broadcasting Arma 2 footage mistakenly labelled as a Libya-funded IRA attack. In 2018, Russia's state-run news service used Arma 3 footage to illustrate the war in Syria.
The issue has affected footage from other video games, too. In 2016, Iranian state TV accidentally aired Medal of Honor footage claiming it to show a real-life raid on ISIS troops.
Similarly, earlier this year, the developer of flight combat sim DCS World asked fans to stop uploading videos from its game mislabelled as footage from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.