By: Alice Su
From hurled controllers to arguments about supposed cheating and one too many your mom jokes, video game players are notorious for raging. But has anybody ever leaked classified military documents to an online forum to win an argument? Actually, the answer is yes - twice last year and again this year.
Since early 2021, players of “War Thunder,” a popular vehicular combat game, have thrice posted classified documents relating to the tanks of Britain, China, and France in an online forum. An individual stated he posted the manual to a British Challenger 2 tank in hopes to get a developer to make the in-game model more accurate. Another uploader posted classified information about the Chinese DTC10-125 tank while arguing about its in-game turret rotation speed in an online forum.
“We explain to the users again and again that it’s pointless to give us any documents that we cannot and won’t use, but we probably can do more to explain this,” said Anton Yudintsev, founder of Gaijin Entertainment, the forum’s host and game’s primary publisher.
“Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent people from publishing something on the internet. We delete the posts and permanently ban those who break the rules, so our users know that they risk everything essentially for nothing.”
Thankfully, though the information still managed to get out, tank experts say that the documents were not important enough to provide an advantage for hostile nations or groups.
“I didn’t see anything I’d jump up and down about,” said Steven Zaloga, senior at Teal Group, an organization specializing in analyzing and publishing volumes on military vehicles for over 50 years.
Sonny Butterworth, a senior analyst at Janes, a defense intelligence company, said, “Tank manuals will be classified at various levels even though a lot of information in it is not especially sensitive,”
Both Zaloga and Butterworth agree that blueprints or documents specifying armor materials or configurations would be most useful to hostile nations.
But in the end, this is a trivial matter… And the ones we must pity are not the countries with leaked information, but the people who posted classified military documents on an online forum to win over a nameless stranger’s opinion about a video game.