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Game Footage That's Been Passed Off As Real Life

As the technology with home gaming consoles and gaming PCs becomes more and more advanced, so do the in-game visuals. Both current-gen consoles — the Xbox Series X|S and the PlayStation 5 — have been pumping out gorgeous looking titles for the past few years, while PC components such as GeForce's RTX 3080 and 3090 graphics cards are pushing the limits of video gaming visuals and providing gamers with an even more immersive experience. Because of these advancements, it is sometimes hard for the untrained eye to discern the difference between video game scenes and real-life footage.

For the most part, news networks both big and small have divisions dedicated to confirming the authenticity of footage and photos that they air as part of their stories. However, with video games constantly pushing the envelope in terms of graphic capabilities, it isn't all that uncommon for some things to slip through the cracks and a end up on air, despite it not being completely legitimate. Here are a few examples of video game captures that have been passed off as real footage.

An Indian news station shows Arma 3 footage

Following the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban led an offensive that took advantage of the ensuing power vacuum that was left in the Western superpower's wake (via The Wall Street Journal). The Taliban quickly overran the Afghan army and was rumored to have received help from Pakista, a long-time ally of the group, in the process. Though Pakistan's involvement in the Taliban's retaking of Afghanistan in 2021 remains unclear, one piece of alleged evidence presented by a news program seemed to have a smoking gun. The only problem is, the footage wasn't real.

On September 6, 2021, Indian news network Republic published a (now-deleted) clip of a Pakistani air attack on Afghan forces in the Panjir Province (via TheGamer). However, this footage wasn't taken from real life. Instead, it's a scene from "Arma 3," a realistic tactical shooter for the PC in which players can engage in warfare. The mishap was picked up by several gaming news sites and sparked ridicule from gamers everywhere.

Red Dead Redemption 2 screenshot is mistaken for nature photography

While the second installment of Rockstar Games' beloved western series earned praise for its story, characters, and gameplay, its silky smooth animations and breathtaking visuals are what made "Red Dead Redemption 2" such an iconic title. This visuals are so good, in fact, that one couldn't blame you if you thought a screenshot of it was lifted from real life. And unfortunately for them, one news station in the Pacific Northwest fell victim to the game's stellar graphics.

In 2020, a local Oregon news station and NBC affiliate KTVZ 21 published an edition of its weekly "Out-N-About" series, where viewers submit their own photos of nature from that week. However, one young gamer decided that she would troll the station by sending in a nature screenshot taken from "Red Dead Redemption 2." Because of the game's impressive and lifelike graphics, you can't really blame the local station for thinking it was real. Still, it's a hilarious prank.

MGS5 shown in a report on child soldiers

Long known for its controversial imagery regarding war and the effects it has on humanity — both those on the sidelines and the ones involved in it — there hasn't been a single subject too bold for the Hideo Kojima-developed "Metal Gear Solid" series to cover. One taboo subject that the Konami's stealth series has tackled is child soldiers, which is alluded to in "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty" and horrifyingly shown outright in "Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain."

While doing a story on the subject, which included interviews with former child soldiers who have since been reintegrated into society, news network Russia Today (RT) included a screenshot from "Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain" that includes child soldiers (via GameSpot). Despite some knowing the source of the photo and pointing it out, RT later claimed that it was a deliberate choice and even mentioned the source of the photo in the story's transcript. It's unknown why a news organization would use a screenshot from a video game in a story about such a sensitive topic; maybe the real thing was too graphic an example.

PUBG: Proof of flat earth?

One of the downsides of the internet is that it allows the distribution and cultivation of fringe and wacky ideas, one of which is flat-earth theory, which has been disproven for centuries now. However, that hasn't stopped people from buying into the conspiracy and falling for hilarious bait.

In a private Facebook group based around flat-earth theory, a man by the name of Eric Cancino posted a picture that is "proof" of the earth being flat that was approved by group admins (via TheGamer). The picture drew tons of responses from other subscribers to this theory who praised it as an excellent tool for their argument. There's only one problem: it's not a real picture. Instead, Cancino showed on Twitter that it's actually a screenshot of the horizon seen on "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds" (more popularly known as "PUBG"), a battle royale video game. It's likely the people who bought into the photo were none too pleased.

Russian news network thinks Arma 3 is Syrian War footage

From a gameplay and visual perspective, "Arma 3" is about as realistic as a tactical shooter can get. Immersive tactics and combat are often seen in playthroughs of the game, and it has even been praised by military veterans for its realism and attention to detail. Because of its striking similarity to the scenes of war many have seen before, gameplay from Bohemia Interactive's military sim is often confused for real footage of military conflicts, or used by bad actors to stir to the pot.

Back in 2018, Russian state news network Pervi Kanal was doing a segment on the ongoing Syrian War, in which several forces — both foreign and domestic — had been vying for total control of the region. During this segment, the Russian network used footage believed to be from the conflict, on for it to be revealed that it was actually gameplay footage from, you guessed it, "Arma 3" (via Kotaku). The segment was later retracted by the organization which blamed the mix-up on a "human factor."