Fans of the free-to-play military video game “War Thunder” are so passionate about the game that they’ve taken to sharing actual classified schematics for real-life military vehicles in an effort to win arguments with complete strangers online.
If three make a trend, well, this is a trend. Because now there is another instance of someone apparently leaking classified military documents to make sure that their tank video game more accurately conforms with reality.
The popular armored combat simulator features modern land, air, and sea craft, and has a devoted following of roughly 50,000 players. And some of them seemingly can’t help themselves from leaking classified military data to make the gaming experience more accurate.
While many of the original images have been taken down, they were essentially the schematics for a Chinese tank munition, presumably revealed to the world so a video game could more accurately depict what would happen if a Chinese tank and an American tank — or British, French, Russian, German or Israeli tank — met in combat.
And this isn’t the first time these forums have become an outlet for technical leaks.
Back in July 2021, someone who very possibly could have been a commander in the Royal Tank Regiment of the United Kingdom, uploaded some documents to the “War Thunder” forums detailing the technical specifications of Britain’s Challenger 2 tank. Presumably, this was in an effort to prove that the game had gotten details wrong about the tank.
Now, the company that makes the game obviously rebukes any attempts to win an online argument by leaking classified military data.
“We have written confirmation from [the Ministry of Defence] that this document remains classified. By continuing to disseminate it you are in violation of the Official Secrets Act as stated by the warning on the cover of the document, an offense which can carry up to a 14-year prison sentence if prosecuted. Of this you are already aware, as a service person you have signed a declaration that you understand the act and what actions it compels you to take,” wrote a message board moderator after the 2021 incident.
That, unfortunately, did not stop the gaming community from their eternal quest of proving someone else wrong on the internet.
A few months later, there was a second leak, this time because it was extremely important to someone out there that the French LeClerc Main Battle Tank have a more accurate depiction in a video game where people wage simulated war.
The most recent leak, the latest leak, from someone with access to the latest technical manuals from China’s People’s Liberation Army, occurred because a user wanted the game’s Chinese battle tanks to have better in-game stats. While most of the information about the Chinese tank round was already known, it was still apparently more important for one gamer to prove another gamer wrong on a message board than it was to consider the implications of publishing the technical details of military munitions online.
The video game developer, Gaijin Entertainment, banned the user, telling Kotaku that, “Our community managers immediately banned the user and deleted his post, as the information on this particular shell is still classified in China. Publishing classified information on any vehicle of any nation at War Thunder forums is clearly prohibited, and the game developers never use it in their work.”
So while war may be hell, winning an argument online is apparently the most intense combat of all. And the gaming forums seem to be determined to explicitly detail just how bad that hell is. Which might just make a message board for a video game about tanks engaging in armored combat one of the leading distributors of operational security (OPSEC) violations.
Maybe the next iteration of “War Thunder” can explore some of the more intimate details of what it’s like to spend, oh, 36 hours straight in the cramped confines of a tank with three other people. That’d certainly add a layer of realism to the game.