CNN Used a Video Game to Show How Russians Hack Stuff

2 minute read

“War never changes,” intones Ron Perlman at the outset of one of Bethesda’s war-torn futuristic Fallout roleplaying games. Also unchanging: the occasional conflation of made-up media depicting a news-reported activity with the real thing.

To wit, CNN seems to think the hacking mini-game in Fallout 4, the one with the retro terminals and Matrix-y code green-on-black code curtains, is the best way to illustrate Russian cyber-nefariousness.

The shot, laid diagonally behind a banner reading “Obama orders unprecedented punishment for Russia hacking,” is one the green-screens you can ply in the game, twiddling a cursor around columns of ASCII characters to highlight rare recognizable words in hopes of picking the right one to gain access. Like so much of the political rhetoric about hacking lately, it’s the gamified version of Hollywood’s idea of what real hackers do.


So it’s an amusing “not much to see here” error, an uncredited stock image fail that could just as well have been a still of Matthew Broderick clacking away on an IMSAI 8080. Who knows what Bethesda’s lawyers think. Though the company seems to be taking it in stride, inserting a snap of one of the game’s hacking terminals into a tweet about the third season of Mr. Robot.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Matt Peckham at