AI Art Has No Place In Gaming

AI art can get fucked. I could end the article here. Technology is already being abused by toxic businesses and individuals who prefer to steal the hard work of creators instead of putting in their own graft. There could be a future where artificial intelligence can be used as a continuous resource for art, writing, and other creative endeavours, but the underlying foundations are so broken that reaching that goal feels impossible. Good people are already being screwed.

Justin Roiland revealed that Squanch Games used a machine-learning algorithm to create visual assets and even a vocal performance for High on Life. The shooter released earlier this week to mixed reviews, and knowing that certain parts of its tired world took shortcuts like this doesn’t exactly warm me to the whole experience. Speaking to Sky News, Roiland said that program Midjourney was used to add “finishing touches” to the game instead of making use of readily available talent in the industry.

Players were quick to uncover the use of AI art in the game through some dodgy posters in the main character’s bedroom. They feature a number of generic prompts used to generate assets based on popular films with characters and environments that aren’t fully-formed enough to be considered man-made. If you aren’t familiar with how AI art works, it is generated by feeding existing work into a machine-learning algorithm that uses them alongside a selection of prompts inserted by the user to generate a piece of art that at times resembles what a human might come up with.

It’s getting better and better, so much so that fierce debates are being had online as the lines are blurred and stolen work feeds capitalist ideas of art as a commodity that is only going to result in dystopia. It’s all shitty tech bros acting like it’s best for the future, real Elon Musk types who won’t credit an artist even if it kills them.

Many of the assets and existing materials used to generate AI artwork are often given to these programs without the permission of artists, becoming a parasite of their expertise, absorbing it into an evolving hivemind. I’m no expert on the technical wizardry, but I don’t need to be in order to realise it’s a bad idea and is already putting good people out of work in a world where making a living as an artist is hard enough. High on Life has already proven that, because Squanch Games cut corners and would rather fulfil their vision with soulless nonsense instead of opting for a human touch. Roiland’s justification for using AI generation is predictably hollow, filled with vague praise for an unknown future and how it will make the creation of art much more accessible. I think the word he’s looking for is lazy, much like his writing and performances.

“I don’t know what the future holds, but AI is going to be a tool that has the potential to make content creation incredibly accessible,” Roiland said. “I don’t know how many years away we are, but all you will need to be is somebody with some big ideas.”

He claims it makes the world feel like a “strange and alternate version” of our own, but that’s because it’s literally ripping from it and trying in vain to conjure up a deliberate pastiche. By design, it is strange and alternate because it isn't capable of being anything else. That alone doesn’t make it worthwhile, but the game has that fun Rick & Morty humour, lazy writing, and some familiar quirks so of course much of the internet is eating it up and acting like this isn’t a massive problem. If we grow complacent to this advancement, it is going to win us over.

That’s another big concern, and how those outside the echochamber aren’t even aware of how artificial intelligence is going to eat away at creative industries, putting talent out of work and becoming the most common solution because it’s easier and cheaper than a human touch. A machine can’t feel, it can’t think, and isn’t capable of creating art that affects us in the most important ways because all it can do is mimic what already exists. Yet so long as it serves a purpose, corporations and creatives like Justin Roiland with enough clout behind them just don’t care.

We are staring down the barrel of a future where artistic merit is determined by a computer basing all its decisions on the work of people it has made obsolete, and that is not a world I want to live in. Video games are already a creatively bankrupt medium at the best of times, with the best ideas coming from smaller developers and studios who don’t need to operate within corporate agenda. But what happens when the big dogs start seeing the benefits of AI and decide to use that to fill in environmental details or voice NPCs instead of hiring artists or actors, putting one person out of work at a time until there’s nothing left. That’s what will happen, and it’s important to recognise how bad things might get since things are moving so damn fast right now. Justin Roiland is an incredibly talented man, albeit a little tired, so you’d expect better from him, and this industry for making sure it doesn’t doom itself to oblivion.

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