Thursday, 27 September 2012

ArmA Devs Arrested and Potentially Facing Espionage Charges

This development is most definitely not a game, although it is related to one.

This is something that I've been following for a little while, but that I've been somewhat reluctant to comment on, mostly because I can't imagine what it would be like to be in the situation these two guys find themselves in. Everyone knows that being a game designer can sometimes be tedious, thankless work; what I doubt though, is that anyone would think that doing it or work related to it might get you arrested on suspicion of being a spy.

Despite that though, this is exactly what's happening to two of the staff of Bohemia Interactive: earlier this month Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar found themselves taken into the custody of Greek police after being found with photographs of the military base located on the island, something that Greek law specifically forbids due to matters of national security. What charges and potential reprimands the pair might face are up in the air, but if the plane spotting incident mentioned in the article linked above is any indication then they could be in for some potentially stiff sentences and/or fines.

This to me is an example of the quest for photo-realism going horribly awry. We have developers and designers priding themselves on people being able to spot the individual streets of cities in games, and while there's nothing wrong with that, it seems that this might prove to be an example of a line that shouldn't be crossed. One Greek fan of the games made these comments:

"Had this been an American base, or any other country with a large population of whom may purchase ArmA 3, it is likely that such an act would not have been performed due to the risk of the country banning the game from being sold there. Hence, I find it disrespectful to do so. At the very least, the ArmA team should modify the base so that it is not an accurate representation of the existing base

"All this time the ArmA series has been based on fictional locations, but now have chosen to create a game on a real location. Of all locations in the World, Limnos - one of the only islands in the Aegean with a military air base, is being replicated, regardless of the tensions between Greece and Turkey which are ongoing (you don't hear it on the news unless you are from Greece or Turkey). Great choice for a first location!"

You can argue that he's being overly sensitive, but I think he does make a good point about what would be happening if this were a team for a game taking pictures of private US compounds or anything of that nature. I'm not saying that the two guys deserve jail time, but I think that they definitely should have known better.

It still is up in the air whether the pair will actually be charged with anything, and I honestly wish them the best. But I think the lesson here is that sometimes it's probably better not to push the boundaries on these types of things, lest the boundaries push back.

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