The use of AI-generated assets in games is already causing controversy in the video game industry, but it doesn’t seem to be a widespread practice as of yet. The most prominent example thus far is High on Life using AI art for posters in the game and some AI voice acting, though outside of video games, but still in the entertainment industry, we have Marvel’s Secret Wars recently using fully AI generated opening credits.
It appears that PC industry gatekeeper Steam is taking at least a temporary stand on the issue. A somewhat old reddit post from three weeks ago is now circulating via a viral tweet from Simon Carless. In it, a developer post to the /aigamedev subreddit that Valve rejected his game for using a few AI art assets. Here’s what he said the message said:
“After reviewing, we have identified intellectual property in [Game Name Here] which appears to belongs to one or more third parties. In particular, [Game Name Here] contains art assets generated by artificial intelligence that appears to be relying on copyrighted material owned by third parties. As the legal ownership of such AI-generated art is unclear, we cannot ship your game while it contains these AI-generated assets, unless you can affirmatively confirm that you own the rights to all of the IP used in the data set that trained the AI to create the assets in your game.
We are failing your build and will give you one (1) opportunity to remove all content that you do not have the rights to from your build.
If you fail to remove all such content, we will not be able to ship your game on Steam, and this app will be banned.”
The dev says he “improved” the pieces by hand so they were no longer obviously AI-generated, but he was rejected again.
If this is an actual policy, one that Steam has not publicly announced, it would be a significant moment in the use of AI for creative work in the video game industry. The move is being celebrated by many gamedevs and artists, but proponents of AI think Steam is fighting an inevitable tide, and they’re wondering how AI assets can always be spotted, given that we have evolved past the initial Midjourney six-fingered monstrosities of the early days. Artists may be able to tell, but can Steam’s game reviewers?
The issues around copyright are indeed nebulous right now. It’s pretty common knowledge that generative AI is trained on millions of images, most pulled from artists without their permission. But the final products are not things you can take and point to one specific artist or image and say it’s cloning that directly, unless your image uses say, copyrighted characters like superheroes. But Valve is saying it’s all too unclear right now, and so they’re not accept games using AI assets, or at least AI assets they can spot.
We’ll see how this policy evolves, and if Valve has anything specific to say about it. Valve has previously banned web3/crypto/blockchain games when that trend was on the rise, and they seem to be cementing what they believe is right in gamedev and what is wrong.