The graphics in video games are improving dramatically every decade. We now have plenty of examples of virtually life-like people and realistic-looking scenery in games. Of course, the in-game graphics (i.e., what you see when you control your character) are usually not as polished as the cutscene graphics (i.e., when you are just watching a video); but some games take pride in using the same graphical technologies for both. However, there are usually tell-tale signs that what you’re watching is nothing more than a CG (computer-graphics) work of art. That is, if you’re a gamer who is used to such graphics. Others are, evidently, fooled by it.
Fact Checking Gone Awry
I wrote about Aimi Eguchi, the “newest member of Japanese girl group AKB 48,” who fooled some people into believing that she was real. I have no figures on how many people believed her, but she was certainly convincing. At least her facial features and voice were.
But let’s talk about a war game that was released in 2009. Do you think you could tell from an ArmA 2 trailer that what you’re seeing is CG instead of real life war footage? I’m gonna guess the answer is “hell yes.” Well that didn’t stop it from being used in a serious documentary on British TV in September.
ITV, one of the biggest TV channels in the UK, aired a documentary on Monday called “Exposure: Gaddafi and the IRA.” Only one problem. It seems we Brits dont know how to distinguish reality from games (at least the brits at ITV dont) because what they stated to be real footage was instead a scene from Bohemia Interactive’s military simulation game, ARMA 2.
The clip that was shown was actually made by a fan of the game who put it on YouTube. Fans of ARMA 2 soon realised what had happened and posted the news on Bohemia’s forums.
“We were not aware of this video,”said Bohemia Interactive CEO Marek Spanel. “We have no idea how this footage made it to the documentary. Our games are very open and allow users to freely do a lot of things. I see this is somehow a bizarre use of creative freedom.”
One ITV spokesman stated to the The Telegraph that they actually do have real footage of a British army helicopter being shot down in 1988 but used the video game material by mistake.
This is the video in question, which was used as an apparent IRA propaganda video:
Even better than that; the actual documentary footage, with the unintentionally hilarious voice-over, is in the following video. You can see just how badly it was mistaken:
The video was soon spoofed to convey how foolish the editors must have been to keep that footage in:
How the Mistake was Made
I’m not going to say that the people responsible are stupid, though I suppose “lazy” may be a bit more accurate. But what I think the real lesson of this episode is that even professionals who are in charge of educational documentaries are not immune to the same fact-checking follies that bloggers like myself are more often accused of. No form of media and no style of information dissemination can escape the potential for human error, or simply being wrong with the knowledge at hand. And yet the respect these outlets get are disproportionally greater. It’s a fact that I have well understood since I started blogging, and one that I have gotten used to.
Just to be fair, the video on YouTube that ITV used was labelled in a misleading way, but not because they were hoping it would fool a documentary filmmaker. The comments section of the video include the creator of the video saying that he feels bad because “ITV [used] my video to make a fake IRA film!”
In an interview with Spong, a gaming website, the chief executive of ArmA 2’s development studio said “On a somewhat more positive note, we consider this as a bizarre appreciation of the level of realism incorporated into our games.”
On that note, Part 2 will look at how far developers have come to making “realistic” games.