More Video Game Footage Substituting For War Footage As Russia Invades Ukraine

from the ghost-in-the-machine dept

It’s nothing new that video games are getting realistic enough at this point that some out there will use it and pass that footage off as things happening in real life. A rather innocuous example of this would be a real estate developer using images from a city-building game in a brochure, for instance. On the other hand, one of the more common ways we see this happen is with governments using footage from war simulation games to do things like pretend they have capabilities that they very much do not, pass off such footage as proof of IRL military strikes that didn’t occur in the manner shown in the footage, or the use of imagery from video games being used to accuse the United States of supporting ISIS when we very much did not.

Well, Russia has decided that peace and stability are rather boring and are currently attempting to either depose the government of Ukraine or annex it. The politics of all of this are too obvious to get into, but we’re already starting to see game footage being passed off as war footage in the conflict. In this case, it is not likely that any of the belligerent governments are doing this, but rather some enterprising internet users making use of Digital Combat Simulator: World footage to create the story of an ace Ukrainian pilot.

A clip of a Ukrainian fighter jet blowing up a suspected Russian aircraft started trending on social media yesterday. Many believed it was proof of the exploits of a mysterious and unverified ace pilot called the “Ghost of Kyiv.” It was actually fake footage from the 2013 PC game, Digital Combat Simulator: World.

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its second day, rumors began to circulate of Ukrainian fighter pilot responsible for taking down multiple Russian targets. “The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has claimed five Russian aircraft and a helicopter were shot down early Thursday,” CNN reported on February 24 (via Snopes). Russia, however, denied the losses.

The source of all this was a YouTube video that was very open that this footage was from the game. It claims it was made “out of respect” for this pilot that may or may not exist. Notably, whoever put the video together did some extra work in order to make it appear more real. As Kotaku notes, the video was made to look as though shot from a cell phone, for instance, not to mention audio of people supposedly gasping and talking throughout it as well.

So what does that mean? A number of things. First and foremost, everyone really needs to be more cautious about excepting that video footage about IRL events cannot be faked and faked quite well. That is obviously not the case.

But it’s also interesting that videos like these really are good enough to fool a great many people. The technology is progressing, sure, but so are people’s creative abilities for how to use it. I’m reminded of the fans of Grand Theft Auto that used some tools to make an entire movie out of game footage. That isn’t what’s going on here, of course, but as games get more realistic, more opportunities for skullduggery and creative output alike are going to come about.

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Comments on “More Video Game Footage Substituting For War Footage As Russia Invades Ukraine”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Video game graphics improve every year, it’s not hard to make a video game clip look real , if it’s short, how many people have seen a real war plane in real life flying at a distance? Editing software is getting better at making cgi look real, ordinary cop dramas use cgi to make rain or snow or add traffic to real filmed scenes to save time on filming on real sets, eg summer turns into winter. This will continue to happwn as country’s seek to influence public opinion by releasing video clips

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

“everyone really needs to be more cautious about excepting”

  • should be “accepting”

As for the rest, I’m often brought to think about the fact that while many older movies have turned out to be shockingly prescient with the way tech and society have evolved (Videodrome always impresses me, for example), The Running Man seem to keep hitting the mark. There’s a plot point there where video has been found to be deceptively edited for political purposes, but there’s also a standout sequence where footage is rendered on the fly to stop the public siding with Schwarzenegger at a key moment where revolt against the government is possible. It ultimately backfires with it being an 80s action movie, but the scene shows a fascist government successfully quelling revolt with faked footage. It’s sad to see that there’s a possibility this could be true in a generation or two.

I’m not sure exactly how we fix this, and it’s fairly concerning. Most people understand the differences between a game or a movie and real footage when they’re presented in the right context, but if it’s getting easier to fool people like this, then the intersection of CGI and deepfakes really do make a future where footage is good enough to fool most people is likely. Given that some important political issues have been decided to some degree off the back of memes and laughably easy to disprove propaganda in recent years, competent realistic looking footage of your opponent committing atrocities is almost guaranteed to swing wars and nations.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Faked footage in a few generations

Faked or twisted evidence isn’t anything new, but I wonder how easy it will become to make such fakes indistinguishable from reality. At least for now, there’s usually an evidence trail allowing people to (eventually) identify the fakes.

One thing to keep in mind about fakes is that it isn’t necessary to create evidence out of whole cloth, you can frequently take actual events and make a narrative (conspiracy theory) out of them just by interpreting them according to your goals. Some examples: “Remember the Maine” blaming Spain for the destruction of a US warship. Various people framed for crimes by corrupt police. Q-Anon.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s far easier to deepfake using current tech, but current Ai-assisted examples are so staggeringly ugly and obviously fake it may take a while.

Ghost of Kyiv and the likes are the digital equivalents of how the Loch Ness Monster was faked, only without the need to make a very fake-looking dinosaur out of wood and scraps and spending a lot of time to het the “right shot”.

Unfortunately, that means people having to learn about the Rule of Parsimony, getting up to speed about deepfaking today, and learning all sorts of depressing things about technology.

And I don’t trust even myself to do that despite actually doing the things I’ve said.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

rubs between his eyes

Every fscking time you hairless apes decide to repeat these events, you repeat the same fscking mistakes.

Everytime there is a conflict, there is doctored footage and many people want to pass it off as real.

I mean at this point I totally expect any day now that DPRK will be posting footage from CNC claiming to have discovered a new element that will let them take over the world and we’ll have talking heads debating it.

I expect the next round of whining being at the platforms for not making sure it was all real to protect the stupid from looking stupid.

Somehow this keeps repeating & your small mammal brains can’t remember the last 100 times it happened… Its like that time Dewey beat Truman.

Just because its awesome or you want it to be true, doesn’t make it true and perhaps you’ve all forgotten whats happened in the last few years when “experts” said the things people wanted to believe that it wasn’t a real virus, no one was dying and everything else.

I know the doctors told you to much sodium was bad, but my FSM how hard is it to take things with a grain of salt until you can confirm things are actually true.

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That One Guy (profile) says:


I expect the next round of whining being at the platforms for not making sure it was all real to protect the stupid from looking stupid.

More than any amount of fakes the downright eagerness of ‘news’ outlets to be the first to cover a story, whether or not they’ve actually checked if it’s true, helps the spread of falsehoods both accidental and intentional, yet strangely it’s always the online platforms that get blamed for spreading lies and allowing them to fester…

Wyrm (profile) says:


(…) how hard is it to take things with a grain of salt until you can confirm things are actually true.

You’re pointing out a flaw in our media landscape.
The race for a breaking news, a sensational article… Basically, the search for truth was abandoned in favor of a competition for views and/or clicks.

So, how hard is it? Basically as hard as the reader/viewer makes it. The more fanatical you are, the faster you will accept things you already think is right, and the slower you can be convinced that opposing views are the truth.
This is a tendency that has also always existed, but with the internet, you can always find sources to validate your views and communicate with like-minded individuals. Social media is rife with “sources” that will tell you exactly what you want to hear, be it because they themselves don’t know how to validate information, or simply don’t care, because it’s more beneficial to lie fast than tell a truth after a delay for validation.

Ben (profile) says:

staged and fake footage

Staged and faked footage are just two sides of the same coin.
The famous image of the raising of the US flag at Iwo Jima (,_larger_-_edit1.jpg) is a well known example. Something somewhat like that did take place, but the actual photo was staged long after the event was supposed to have taken place.
Where does one draw the line between ‘staged in order to illustrate an event’, and ‘faked in order to mislead’?

TFG says:


One very simple differentiation: “stated intent.”

In the example of the Iwo Jima photo, if the people taking it and releasing state upfront that this is a staged recreation of an earlier event, then there you have ‘staged in order to illustrate an event.’

If, on the other hand, those who took the photo distributed it as ‘the actual event’ – deliberately presenting it as real, not staged – then you have ‘faked in order to mislead.’

Secondary distribution (reposters, etc.) has a secondary role, and again it falls to stated intent, but now only of that secondary person’s actions, and not the original distribution. If the reposter, reporter, what have you deliberately misrepresents something that was stated to be staged as being the real thing, that doesn’t change the original to “faked in order to mislead” but does make the second person’s actions an act of misinformation.

If they misrepresent it in error, then it’s still misinformation, but now born out of negligence rather than deliberate malfeasance.

It’s not really that hard to define – the difficulty is instead in tracking down and divining original intent. With the “Ghost of Kyiv” instance, that’s “staged to recreate” – but unfortunately what they are recreating may never have happened.

Regardless of that, the onus here lies on the reposters, who are leaving out the context, likely purposely in some cases, that this is video game footage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ghost of Kyiv is a very funny example when you realize the context.

Which is, a moderately popular user/player of a popular RUSSIAN MMO wargame (War Thunder’s devs are based in Russia), using game footage from at least 2 games (Ace Combat 7 and the aforementioned War Thunder, though my memory’s a bit fuzzy here), to create a “tribute” to an act of resistance against Russian aggression.

Because saying that MANPADs took out Russian air assets is both boring, expected and may invite weeaboos because the Javelin system shares it name with the HMS Javelin (the WW2 destroyer) and well, that ship’s been turned into an anime girl…

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