Breaking the news
With every passing year, video game graphics get more and more realistic. Gone are the days of geometrically inclined characters and landscapes--now good money is spent on making each head of hair move more realistically than that last one. I swear, sometimes when you catch these creations out of the corner of your eye, youd almost think they were real. In fact, some people have.
Many have fallen for the but-it-looks-so-real trap, particularly if they don't interact with games every day. Some of them are even people in positions of power, who have influence over things like the broadcast content of news networks. Then, hilariously, they take footage from games and say that its real. That has happened at least six times, because I have that many different examples of news outlets accidentally using video game footage in their broadcasts. Ready to lose any faith you had in network news? Then come along with me!
SophieCo in Russia showed an image from The Phantom Pain in a story on child soldiers
There you are, passing the time by watching a serious video about serious issues. Child soldiers in Sudan, for example. You're engrossed in the heartbreaking first-hand account, but about a quarter of the way through, you get distracted. There's something moving across the screen and is that Metal Gear Solid? If so, there's a good chance you're watching a report by Russian news program SophiCo--and yes, it is Metal Gear Solid you're seeing on screen. (And if you arent, well, that's a weird coincidence.)
As part of a story on former child soldier and current rap artist Emmanuel Jal, the news agency used a variety of topic-appropriate images, pulled up on screens for the camera to briefly pan over. While most served their illustrative purpose well, one picture (seen at 5:35 here) resulted in pause button abuse across the globe, because it wasn't a picture of real child soldiers at all. Instead, it was a promotional image for Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Once this revelation started to make the rounds, SophieCo parent company RT announced that the image was used intentionally, updated their website, and added a notation to the video on YouTube. Good of them, but why would you want to distract from the body of your report like that?
TV2 in Denmark used a screenshot from Assassin's Creed in a report on Syria
Welp, looks like Assassin's Creed gets another notch on its belt for realism, because one of its digitally rendered cities was mistaken for the real thing--and not just by people on the internet yelling about how good the turtles look. Instead, it was a respected Danish news organization that looked at the series' version of Damascus and thought, "Yeah, that looks about right."
Back in early 2013, news station TV2 nabbed a photo of Damascus to use as a backdrop for a report on Syria. Looks like the asset acquisition person was in a bit of a rush though, because what they grabbed wasn't a photo of the capital, but an image from the first Assassin's Creed game. Even funnier, Assassin's Creed is set in 1191, and the actual capital looks a little more modern than TV2 gave it credit for. The network quickly apologized for the use of the image, calling it a "reminder to us all of the importance of verifying the sources of pictures." Or, you know, bragging rights for Ubisoft.
The BBC represented the UN Security Council with the Halo UNSC logo
Aww, come on BBC, were you even trying? In 2012, the news network ran a story on the United Nations Security Council, so they needed some good logo shots to spice up the report. Apparently some wires got crossed, though, and they ended up with the UNSC logo instead. As in, United Nations Space Command from Halo.
While reporting on Amnesty International's criticisms against the real UNSC, BBC popped the Amnesty and Halo UNSC logos side by side, with the latter set just right to never leave the shot. The error was quickly caught by discerning viewers and internet mockers, and the BBC backtracked, replacing the image in later segments. They apologized for the error, saying that "BBC News makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all images broadcast. However, very occasionally mistakes do happen." Though, given that the real UNSC logo looks nothing like the Halo one, the only way to mix them up is to Google "UNSC" and grab the first image. Doesn't scream journalistic rigor.
The CanAsian Times in Canada did the same thing as the BBC, and didn't fix it
In the BBC's defense, at least the UNSC image came down right quick once they realized their error. Other news organizations aren't always so responsive, even with the same image. Case in point, the CanAsian Times, which also used the Halo UNSC logo in a story on the UN Security Council, two months before the BBC's snafu, and it's still there.
The only print-exclusive news sources on this list, the CanAsian Times isn't as immediately accessible as some of these other networks (read: you can't make a YouTube video out of it). Plus, since the site seems to turn all comments off on their articles, and the mistake was only reported in relation to BBC's troubles, you start to get why the picture hasn't been pulled yet. Still, it speaks to the same Google snatch-and-grab that the BBC's been accused of, so CAT doesn't get a pass just because its smaller. Come on, fellas. How sure are that you got the right UN Security Council image when pictures of space marines show up right next to it?
Fox News stole their logo design from BioShock Infinite
In July of 2014, Fox News ran a report on immigration policy in the US, including an interview with the governor of Texas in which he challenged the President to meet him at the border and see what it looked like in person. The report probably won't be remembered for that stirring call out, though, because Fox News' "Defending the Homeland" logo stole the spotlight as much as it stole its design from Bioshock Infinite.
The use of this logo is particularly humorous given its context, and the network that chose to snatch it up. Not only does Infinite parody the American exceptionalism that Fox News is known to support, but with "Defending the Homeland" splashed across the pretty blatant Infinite silhouette, Fox ends up equating themselves with some of Infinite's nastier iconography. When the situation was brought to Ken Levine's attention and questions of copyright came up, the Irrational dev simply called it Irony. Irony so delicious you could drink it like good 'ol American sweet tea, ya'll.
Exposure passed off a cutscene from ArmA II as footage of a terrorist attack
While most of these slip-ups are humorous and fairly innocuous, this one is a bit more insidious. In 2011, the UK news program Exposure ran a story exposing the link between Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and the Provisional Irish Republican Army, a terrorist group based in Northern Ireland. You may be getting nervous about what that has to do with video games, and you are right to be. In that report, Exposure falsified footage of an IRA attack on British troops, instead using a cutscene from ArmA II. Ooooh.
The video, captioned "IRA film 1988", showed a very convincing scene of a helicopter being shot down by ground forces. Exposure claimed this was footage taken by IRA operatives themselves, but gamers were quick to point out that it was actually taken from ArmA II, a tactical shooter set in the fictional land of Chernarus. Exposure pulled the video, claiming that they really did have footage and this was just a little mix-up, we promise guys. Still, audiences weren't impressed, nor were British TV regulators, who called the video "materially misleading" and slapped Exposure with a notice of noncompliance.
Didn't do the research
There we have six times news outlets used video game footage in their broadcasts, and six times hawk-eyed gamers called them out. Any other networks come to mind? Is your faith count at a critical low? Do you think Fox and friends would like the view on Columbia? Tell me in the comments below, and keep your eyes out for more!
No really, do it then tell me. It'll be hilarious.
Want more stories about when games and reality collide? Check out Lesbianism, Tibetan independence, and 12 other reasons for video game bans or Video games as they appear in music, television, and film for how games appear in other media.