Multiple "AI Art" Updates and Controversies in Tabletop Gaming

BackerKit bans, Wizards of the Coast replaces, and Essen Spiel caught using algorithmically generated artwork.

Three news stories this week came out about algorithmic generation aka "AI Art" in the tabletop gaming industry.

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BackerKit announced that effective October 4, no project will be allowed with any writing or art assets that were entirely created by algorithmic generation aka “AI”. From the blog post:

At BackerKit, our team is passionate about people’s passions. For ten years, we’ve supported creators in their journey to launch projects and build thriving creative practices and businesses. We’ve developed deep relationships and respect for the people who breathe life into crowdfunding projects, and we are committed to defending their well-being on our platform.

That’s why we are announcing a new policy that aims to address growing concerns regarding ownership of content, ethical sourcing of data, and compensation for the process of creating content. […]

As part of this consideration, BackerKit has committed to a policy that restricts the use of AI-generated content in projects on our crowdfunding platform.

This policy goes into effect on October 4, 2023.

[…] This policy emphasizes that projects on BackerKit cannot include content solely generated by AI tools. All content and assets must first be created by humans.

This doesn’t impact content refined with AI-assisted tools like “generative content fill” or “object replacement” (image editing software functions that help blend or replace selected portions of an image), other standard image adjustment tools (saturation, color, resolution,) or AI language tools that refine human-created text with modifications to spelling, grammar, and syntax.

Software assisted by AI, such as transcribers or video tracking technology are permitted under these guidelines. However, software with the purpose to generate content using AI would not be permitted.

The post includes image examples of what content is and is not allowed. Additionally, BackerKit will add an option to the back end for creators that will allow them to “exclude all content uploaded by our creators for their projects from AI training”. This is opt-out, meaning that by default this ban is in place and creators who want their work used for training generative algorithms must go in and specifically allow it.

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This move comes alongside a pair of recent controversies in tabletop gaming. Last month, Wizards of the Coast came under fire as it was revealed a freelance artist used algorithmic generation for artwork included in Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants. Wizards of the Coast quickly updated their stance on algorithmic generation with a statement that the artwork would be removed from the D&D Beyond digital copies of the book and will place new language in contracts banning the use of algorithmic generation.

This week, Gizmodo reporter Linda Codega reported that the artwork in the D&D Beyond version of Bigby Presents has now been replaced with new art. No announcement was made about the new artwork, and Gizmodo’s attempts to contact Wizards of the Coast for a statement directed them to the statement made in August. The artist who used algorithmic generation, Ilya Shkipin, has been removed from the art credits from the book, and the artwork has replaced by works by Claudio Prozas, Quintin Gleim, Linda Lithen, Daneen Wilkerson, Daarken, and Suzanne Helmigh.

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Meanwhile, the largest tabletop gaming convention in Europe, Essen Spiel, recently ran into the same controversy as promotional material for the convention used algorithmically generated artwork including the convention’s official app, promotional posters, and tickets for the event.

Marz Verlag, the parent company for the convention, responded to a request for comment from Dicebreaker:

"We are aware of this topic and will evaluate it in detail after the show. Right now please understand that we cannot answer your questions at this moment, as we have a lot to do to get the show started today," said a representative for Merz Verlag.

"Regarding the questions about Meeps and timing, I can tell you quickly that the marketing campaign [containing AI artwork] has been created way before we had the idea to create a mascot. The idea of Meeps had nothing to do with the marketing campaign and vice versa."

Meeps, a board game-playing kitten and totally innocent of the controversy (because who could blame a cute kitty), is the new mascot for the convention announced this past July voted on by fans and was designed by illustrator Michael Menzel.
 

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Darryl Mott

Darryl Mott

stadi

Explorer
Even if we don't consider the ethics and legal aspects of this topic, I see a huge quality problem. A lot of the AI art (especially when including people) is simply ugly.

I've backed the "The Great Campaign Adventure Book" by Triple Ace Games, and even though they advertised the project as "gloriously illustrated", they failed to mention that it includes gen-AI art. And those were very bad looking and some of them had a very small resolution. I've decided not to back any of their projects in the future.
 

talien

Community Supporter
What's so interesting about all this is not the use of AI art, which is now very pervasive, but how many companies seem to not understand (or care) how their art is made. The controversy over AI art is just as valid as the controversy over artists who plagiarize other artists' art, which has been a pernicious problem in the comic industry for as long as there have been comics.

It really does seem that companies accept art submissions and -- until the AI controversy came around -- don't ask questions about how it was sourced. I assume the solution to this is the same as a good editor -- a human who looks at things critically to review before incorporating into the final product. What would the equivalent be, an art director?
 

Abstruse

Legend
What would the equivalent be, an art director?
Precisely. It's another expense because the people who can tell if an artist is a good fit for a project from a portfolio (especially if there's a particular art style involved) and can tell the use of unethical image sourcing (which used to be someone tracing reference art too closely but these days is using algorithmically generated art as reference if not just straight-up generated art) are talented and experienced and thus in-demand and expensive...but it's going to become a necessity for any game publisher if they want to make sure the art they use is not only ethically sourced but also, considering the current state of IP law for the copyright of algorithmic generation (namely you can't copyright it), legally sound.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
It is interesting that a distinction is being made between AI assistance and AI generation. I wonder where the line is. For example, the last time I used Midjourney months ago they were rolling out a tool where you could input an image to guide the algorithm along with the text prompt. If I used that tool with my own crude sketches, would that count as originating with a human?

I don't mean this question philosophically. I mean it as a rhetorical question for Backerkit. Where do they draw the line? And how will they enforce that line?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
It is interesting that a distinction is being made between AI assistance and AI generation. I wonder where the line is. For example, the last time I used Midjourney months ago they were rolling out a tool where you could input an image to guide the algorithm along with the text prompt. If I used that tool with my own crude sketches, would that count as originating with a human?

I don't mean this question philosophically. I mean it as a rhetorical question for Backerkit. Where do they draw the line? And how will they enforce that line?
We're in the infancy of this. I imagine the landscape will evolve, not just in terms of corporate policies, but also legislation or regulation. Right now, it's hard to tell where things will end up.
 


talien

Community Supporter
Precisely. It's another expense because the people who can tell if an artist is a good fit for a project from a portfolio (especially if there's a particular art style involved) and can tell the use of unethical image sourcing (which used to be someone tracing reference art too closely but these days is using algorithmically generated art as reference if not just straight-up generated art) are talented and experienced and thus in-demand and expensive...but it's going to become a necessity for any game publisher if they want to make sure the art they use is not only ethically sourced but also, considering the current state of IP law for the copyright of algorithmic generation (namely you can't copyright it), legally sound.
So in some ways, this has always been a vulnerability in the industry for smaller companies, and AI is essentially exposing that weakness. I'm always yelling about hiring editors, but now I think we need to insist on art directors too!
 


Scribe

Legend
Question: now that AI can do some/much of what programmers do, how many of you expect your video game companies to use "ethically sourced" code?

Ethical behavior of software/video companies is already pretty laughable. IT folks have been watching our jobs get shipped over seas for 20+ years, and crunch is a thing.

I am not hopeful for things to get any better with AI but I recently watched a number of my coworkers get let go, and the last 2 code pushes have introduced critical flaws.

/progress
 

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