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War Thunder devs apologize after using Challenger shuttle explosion in official art

Three images of planes in War Thunder composited together. In the bottom left is a debris cloud that's actually from the Challenger explosion.
Gaijin Entertainment

War Thunder developer Gaijin Entertainment responded over the weekend to an observation from online users that it had used the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion in new key art.

The image, released to coincide with the upcoming Seek & Destroy update, features a composite of three images that show off some of the new jets coming to the game. However, in the background of one is a debris cloud that, if you grew up in the U.S. or are up on your NASA disasters, you probably recognize as the infamous explosion. It’s been edited slightly, but the unique shape and falling debris are apparent.

“Hey guys, we have accidentally used the explosion from the Challenger disaster in one of our key art images. Please accept our sincere apologies for this, the picture was part of an aerial explosion reference pack used by our artists and the context was lost,” a community manager called “magazine2” posted on the official War Thunder forum. A similar statement was posted on Reddit.

“We’ll be altering this artwork as soon as we can and will take measures to ensure that this doesn’t repeat again in the future.”

While the update blog was posted on June 19, people only started to notice the inclusion in the following days. A lot of the conversations online seem to trace back to one Reddit poster who said the cloud looked familiar, so they looked it up. The artwork is still up at the time of publication. It’s also still the thumbnail used for the update on YouTube.

War Thunder is an online multiplayer game that focuses on hyperrealistic military vehicular combat and functions as a flight simulator. This isn’t the first time the community has gotten embroiled in controversy about real-world events — although it usually doesn’t come from the developers themselves. As of September 2023, there have been over a dozen instances of players leaking classified military documentation. There’s a comprehensive list of the leaks on Steam that show how many of them were done to contest potential design flaws in the vehicle models.

In an interview with Task and Purpose, Gaijin founder Anton Yudintsev said the studio has had to refine their moderation to counter these specific issues.

Carli Velocci
Carli is a technology, culture, and games editor and journalist. They were the Gaming Lead and Copy Chief at Windows Central…
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