Kenney Vleugels, a game developer known for releasing thousands of free assets, says they’ve been barred from select Global Game Jam events after criticizing the organization’s decision to accept AI companies as sponsors.
Vleugels, known in some circles as “Asset Jesus” for the sheer volume of free stuff he’s put out in the past decade and change, said on January 21 that “I’m banned from attending certain events after having called out Global Game Jam’s AI sponsor, I’m not considered ‘part of the Global Game Jam community’ thus my opinion does not matter.”
This ban followed a January 20 tweet where Vleugels pointed out that one of the “diversifiers” for Global Game Jam 2024 – optional challenges or themes that participants can apply to their game projects – is not only sponsored by AI company Leonardo.AI, but expressly calling for the use of AI-generated assets in games.
Vleugels notably has a profile on the GGJ website, and in comments to GamesRadar+ affirms that he has organized two GGJ locations in the past, “but stopped after dissatisfaction with the organization.” Many, many other game devs were shocked to see Vleugels banned and quickly came to his defense, likewise skewering the presence of AI in the organization’s sponsors and events.
The list of total sponsors on the GGJ site also includes AI company Cybever, described on its official Twitter account as “an infrastructure to automate metaverse and gaming development.” In a post last month, Cybever shared a clip of AI-generated animation with a caption that will feel familiar to those immersed in AI discourse: “Feels like any person with a imagination [sic] can create things of dreams.”
Speaking with GamesRadar+, Vleugels explains that a GGJ representative told him “they deemed the AI sponsor a worthy sponsor because they were told that it’s ‘ethical’ AI, but lacked an official statement to back that up.” This claim was in reference to Stable Diffusion training, but such AI has also been widely criticized for exploiting artists.
Asked about their concerns with AI, Vleugels says: “I’m particularly worried about the rights of artists. It seems that a majority of the available generative AI tools were trained on data which they do not have rights for. Artists that shared their art online were not able to opt-out, they weren’t asked permission and their licenses and rights were ignored. Yet, it seems like it’s still perfectly fine to do this and keep these tools running. Whether or not AI tools are here to stay and whether they’ll take away jobs is speculation, I have no idea personally. However, it’s important to protect the rights of artists.”
Valve’s new Steam policy will allow the “vast majority” of AI games.