Why I use AI art

First up, this is not a defence. Nor is it an attempt to convince anyone I’m right (or — even worse — that they are wrong).

Instead it is a post that sets out the reasons I am (currently) using Midjourney to create visual assets for my tabletop roleplaying games.

Isn’t it morally wrong?

I don’t know. I don’t think so. Not in the way I’m using it, at least.

So yes, Midjourney and other tools like it do their thing by ‘scraping’ millions of assets available on the internet. Some of these are undoubtedly not in the public domain. So, it is relatively simple to create a piece of ‘artwork’ that is very recognisably in the style of a real, human artist.

I’m not a huge fan of that. Some of my friends are artists. I used to be a freelance photographer and know the struggles associated with trying to land consistent, paid work.

But my use of AI art honestly is not trying to take anyone’s opportunity away from them, nor is it attempting to blatantly copy the work of others.

Big budget movies that don’t exist

That’s the style I’m going for. Big, bold, cinematic and photorealistic, with big-budget makeup, costumes and visual effects.

The kind of imagery that it would be impossible to create or commission without a six-figure budget and a huge amount of time.

The sort of imagery that is probably taking inspiration from actual cinematography and movies, but isn’t stealing from it.

And the sort of imagery that inspires me.

Time is the enemy

As someone familiar with photography and post-processing, I know how long it can take to end up with a satisfactory image. As an amateur digital painter, I know the same is true of artwork.

And time is something I don’t have in abundance.

What I do have is a vision; a desire to write and produce gaming content that others might find enjoyable. And I know enough about sales and marketing to realise that the visual appeal of a product is an important aspect of at least getting someone’s eyes on it, particularly in today’s (fantastically) crowded market.

So I have taken the decision — for now — to use AI photography to enhance the visual appeal of my product.

Why not use a real artist?

Time and money.

If I had more of both, I happily would. When I ever have more of both, I happily will.

But for now I don’t.

I could never afford to commission an artist to supply the number of images I’m keen to use, so I’m not taking anyone’s opportunities away. Nor do I want to delay getting my ideas out into the world, or stifle their chances of being seen by having them little more than 250-page Word documents.

I respect your views may vary

I get it, I really do. I understand the contentiousness of the issue and the fact that AI is a threat to many areas, not just visual art.

Would I feel the same if someone used AI to create detailed rules of a 250-page steampunk tabletop roleplaying game?

Yes, I think I probably would.

Because even if they’d fed my 250-page steampunk tabletop roleplaying game into an AI engine to create theirs, it wouldn’t be the same as mine.

And I would look at theirs and respect what they’ve done.

And continue on my own creative path, making my own decisions that may not be the same as the decisions that I end up making in the future, but which I have satisfied myself I am comfortable with for now.

And I honestly and sincerely respect that you might decide you want nothing more to do with me as a result.

One reply on “Why I use AI art”

I’m not saying you’re right or wrong, just adding a thought or two on the matter. Full disclosure, I have used some AI art in products previously.

You say (broadly) that you could never afford to commission an artist, so you’re not taking away opportunities.

But, you are competing for mind share, and presumably the contents of people’s wallets, against other publishers of content. Let’s say someone else wanted to do a Pictish RPG, and had a bit of money and time to pay an artist. They can’t afford much, so have to compromise on their own vision (which may be as grand as yours) and put out something with small amounts of low quality artwork.

This is now competing with your AI generated product which is full of big glossy cinematic artwork. The simpler product may do badly because of that, so never survives to produce further supplements. So the artist misses out on further work. Or maybe they were getting a fraction of the profits, which are now minimal.

Also, at what point do you switch to using paid art? Your first release is a big success, so you do a supplement. You now have some money to possibly pay an artist. But the cost of duplicating the art style in the original is way above your budget. Do you drop own to using simpler art so that you can pay someone, or do you continue using AI art and not pay artists anything?

I used AI before the whole issue of whether it was right or wrong to do so blew up. I was actually using CC0 content from places like Pixabay before that, so my reasoning is that I would have continued to do the same if I hadn’t used AI. Whether that’s right or wrong I don’t know.

Is it okay to use AI generated art in my open source RPG where the budget is zero? Or will that also have the problem that it is then competing with products where people are being paid?

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