Russian state TV aired a short video clip last night that was supposed to be from the brutal war in Syria. But it was actually from a video game called ARMA 3. And for some reason this seems to be happening again and again and again.
The BBC was the first English-language news site to spot this latest story after it went viral on Pikabu, a website kind of like Russia’s version of Reddit. The video game footage, which lasts for just a second, reportedly appeared in a segment last night on Kremlin-controlled Channel One TV honouring a soldier slain in Syria.
Russian media, president Vladimir Putin, and Russia’s Foreign Ministry, have repeatedly used fake footage from video games for propaganda purposes. And it’s getting harder and harder to understand why. There’s more than enough real footage of war out there. The internet is awash in it. So why use footage from video games?
Is it just because footage from video games actually looks more “real” in a way, as it’s typically in colour and often gives the sniper’s-eye view? That could be the explanation for this instance, as you can see that the video game footage is arguably the most cinematic shots in the short clip.
Users on Pikabu were split on theories about why the video game footage was included in the news segment. Some said that perhaps it was just a wink to savvy gamers. While other people suggested it a cry for help from a video editor who was forced to include dishonest footage.
Whatever the cause, it doesn’t make Russian state media look very trustworthy at the moment. Especially after it’s happened so many times now.
ARMA 3 was first released in 2013 and is set in the futuristic world of 2030, where Russia and NATO forces square off. And given the trajectory of the New Cold War, that futuristic world could be closer than we think. Especially given the propaganda that’s coming out of both sides, whether it’s the Kremlin’s Channel One, or the White House’s own propaganda outlet, Fox News.
Though to be fair to Fox News, they haven’t used video game footage yet, as far as we know. That distinction goes to CNN, which back in December of 2016 aired a computer terminal from Fallout as b-roll for a segment on Russian hacking.