Are AI Generated Games The Next Big Thing?

AI has been the talk of the town in 2023. Whether it’s the emergence of ChatGPT threatening to derail the online journalism industry or the notion of allowing AI to take control of military weapons, it’s safe to say people are pretty scared of what it can be capable of.

But it’s not all fear-mongering, as AI can also be a force for good in, say, the entertainment industry. We’ve already had a strike take place in the world of actors and writers, and that’s due to bigger companies wanting to use actor likenesses until the end of days via AI. It’s a plotline right out of Black Mirror, and it’s become disturbingly real before our very eyes.

Of course, the gaming industry is not one to be left behind when new innovations arise, and sure enough, AI in games has become something very real, and there are already a handful of games out there created by a noncreator. This is a sketchy road, to say the least, and the success of it could lead to the downfall of the industry I hold very near and dear.

What Does AI Do in Video Games?

AI has actually been present in video games for quite a long time. If you’ve ever played a roguelike, you’d have experienced video game AI hard at work. In the most recent mainstream use of AI, Starfield provided players with 1000s of procedurally created planets to explore. That procedural generation is a result of AI.

In fact, on a larger scale, many NPCs are governed by AI, and how you act towards them can affect how they respond to you. For example, in the world-famous Skyrim, if you attack a guard, that guard will not only attack you back but summon an entire legion of guards to take you down. If you hit a civilian, they will react more hesitant and brush it off until they can take no more and go to defend themselves. That is AI at work adapting to your every move.

It’s only become more and more sophisticated in today’s age, with NPCs feeling more lifelike than ever. One particularly disturbing use of AI came with The Last of Us 2, which would have NPCs calling to each other by name and screaming in agony, hearing their friends being killed. It was programmed that way, of course, but it felt very real and continued to blur the lines between what is and isn’t a game.

What Does AI Do in Video Games?

So, now that we know that AI has been used in gaming for ages, what makes this new wave of AI so groundbreaking? It’s because now, instead of programmers putting the AI into motion, the AI can now do that itself. In fact, programmers aren’t even needed anymore, as AI is capable of generating an entire gaming experience on its own.

It’s quite crude in its base state, but AI is capable of learning and evolving at an exponentially growing rate, which means that it could essentially leap from Nintendo 64 quality games to 2024 quality games in no time at all. 

If you think it’s far away, consider how far ChatGPT has come in a very short period of time and how it’s already threatening to derail the online journalism industry. It’s not just people who are afraid; big companies are panicking too, as mega powers such as Valve have already released a statement that they will be banning any AI-generated games from their Steam Stores.

AI has been a tool we have used for decades now in small ways, but it seems that the evolution is about to take hold in a way that can hold many of our favorite gaming industries in a very uncomfortable place.

Are Companies Embracing AI Games?

While full-on AI-generated games are not being embraced by the triple-A studios of the gaming world, there are certain companies that are looking into just what AI can bring to the table. For example, Sony is already in motion to add AI adaptive difficulty to every one of its games in the near future, creating an on-the-fly experience that adapts to how well you are playing.

In a smaller instance of this newly styled AI being used in games, High on Life used the AI program Midjourney to create art for its alien worlds. It was a controversial move made by the equally controversial Justin Roiland.

Ninja Theory has also been cited as using AI to generate voice content, which is something that is just as threatening to vocal artists as what SAG went on strike for. In fact, the biggest name in the video game voice acting world, Troy Baker, faced major backlash for partnering with a company that was aiming to create voice-based NFTs, which would result in your ownership over that voice, allowing them to use it in any form you see fit. It’s baffling that Baker would ever think of doing that, but hey, money has driven people to do a whole lot worse.

Luckily, the online backlash forced Baker out of the deal and thankfully put a swift end to the concept for the time being. But that was just in the baby phases of this new generation of AI. Lately, there have been several examples of what AI in games is capable of, and frankly, it’s astonishing.

A recent Skyrim mod allows AI to generate an unending number of voice lines using the game’s voice actors’ voices. That means while using the mod, you can ask Lydia about her homeland, and she’ll tell you about it. You can question why the Dark Brotherhood kills people. You can discover so much about the world just by thinking and speaking it into existence. You can ask these NPCs pretty much anything you want, and they’ll respond using AI. Here’s an example of one Youtuber using it and asking it random questions, such as requesting quotes from Gandalf the Grey, and sure enough, the NPC answers accordingly.

The fact that a single modder was able to put this together is staggering on its own, and that video shows it in motion in all its wonder and, obviously, ridiculousness as well. During the video, the Youtuber asks Tolfdir for McDonald and gets told they don’t have McDonald in Skyrim but points him to another place to get food instead. Simply incredible.

If just one modder can come up with this, you have to imagine the big game companies out there are salivating at the possibilities. Imagine a Mass Effect game where you can ask a random person about the Contact War. A God of War game where you can ask characters about the early days of Kratos? A Dark Souls game where you can actually get some world information out of a typically vague NPC? A Baldur’s Gate game with even more freedom on what you want to ask your companions about? The possibilities are honestly endless.

Will AI Be a Problem For Video Games?

While it’s just conjecture at this point, the path we’re headed down with AI games is most certainly a problematic one. In that video above, the Youtuber MERPTV took a voice actor’s voice and asked it countless questions, and it responded with things he did not record. That voice actor had no consent to his voice being used in this way, and you can obviously see where this could get very bad very quickly.

And that’s just thinking about what AI can do to the voice acting industry, which already has countless issues, and showed just how hypocritical SAG-AFTRA is in the process, as they signed a deal with an AI company that replicates voices. Several voice actors in the union, such as Steve Blum, have already voiced displeasure on the subject, and the discourse is only going to get worse as the plan to replicate video game voice actor voices for future games gets put into motion.

Woman Playing Video Games

In terms of how big of a problem AI poses, for the time being, that answer is to be determined. Right now, we are just in the initial stages of what AI is going to do on a global scale, and the same goes for AI in the video game industry. However, if we look at the big picture, it’s easy to see how this can get out of hand quickly. Game development for bigger titles takes upwards of 4 years or more sometimes, and with AI, the ability to shorten that length has to be an appealing possibility.

Level generation, character dialogue, character design, and pretty much anything you can think of is able to be generated by AI as opposed to having a human have to do the work. What if a group of writers can’t agree on how the protagonist should act early on in a game? Throw the backstory and lore of the game into an AI generator, and out comes your new main character. Can’t agree on how the main villain is supposed to look? Throw that idea into an AI generator. Take that concept and apply it to level design, sound design, voice inflection, and weapon design, and you can easily see some companies kicking their feet back and letting the workers of the future do all the hard labor for them. 

That sounds good on the surface, but with it dies artistic integrity, creativity, originality, and charm that has been fueling the video game industry for over 40 years now. Personally, I am okay with some aspects of games being relegated to AI. For example, with the creation of gaming systems, I’m alright with being taken over by AI because a lot of the time, I’m already going, “What on earth were they thinking with this?” and maybe AI will act more logically in certain situations.

However, I don’t want a game built from the ground up on AI. I like to be impressed and proud of the people who put in countless hours to create enjoyment for me and millions of others. If I were to find out Elden Ring or Baldur’s Gate 3 were created solely by AI? I’m not sure I’d feel the same, as that feeling of passion that’s put into such games would fall by the wayside, and instead, a cold realization that AI can do this better than we ever dreamed of would be something to lament rather than celebrate. 

Is There Any Escaping AI in Games?

Man And Humanoid Robot Playing Video Games

Unfortunately, this appears to be a train that is going full speed ahead, and whether it remains on the tracks or goes off a cliff remains to be seen, but when the greater powers embrace something this big, you know it’s going to stay that way until it’s proven not to work. We will have to see a war of sorts take place before the dust will be settled on this argument. There will undoubtedly be companies that rely heavily on AI for games in the future, and there will be companies that refuse it at every turn, valuing their own skill over a computer to create their gaming visions. The sales will tell the story. If a big-time title like God of War turns into an AI-generated game, and the fans respond well, it will become the norm in the industry. Conversely, if triple-A games that embrace AI go down in flames while smaller indie studios create man-made masterpieces, the trend will die off faster than NFTs. 

We are in the wait-and-see period of what could be a turning point for not only the gaming industry but human civilization as a whole. That might sound dramatic, but in reality, AI is weaving its way into every threatening form imaginable, and whether or not it can negatively affect the gaming industry might one day be the least of our problems. 


Question: Will AI be able to produce games on its own?

Answer: It’s already doing that, with several basic games coming to life just from the mind of an AI. In the future, we will likely see entire game engines created using AI, and the sky is the limit for how much it can do in the gaming industry. 

Question: Is AI going to affect how we buy games? 

Answer: There is a chance that we can start seeing services use AI to curate games towards us, much like Instagram or Twitter does, but it will probably not gain full control over the way we buy games.

Question: Are voice actors in danger of losing jobs to AI?

Answer: This is the most present threat in the gaming industry at the moment. With SAG-AFTRA signing a deal with an AI company, it’s possible you’ll be hearing your favorite voice actors perform in projects they never signed up for sooner rather than later. 

AI Is Here, It’s Up To Us How We Deal With It

This path I’ve drawn out may seem like an inevitability, but it doesn’t have to be. The video game industry is the most lucrative entertainment industry in the world by a huge margin, so why complicate things? Why risk alienating the very fans that fuel your industry’s economy?

Nobody ever grew up dreaming they would one day watch an AI make a game for them in front of their eyes. I know I’ve never hoped ChatGPT could write my thoughts out better than I have. I know game designers the world over want to maintain control of things like narrative, dialogue, and other aspects that demand an emotional touch in video games. We can’t get complacent. We can’t take the easy out here. The easy way out is AI, and so many industries are falling for it, but let’s hope the video game industry is stronger and smarter than to sell its soul for something without one.

Continue reading:

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