It had to happen. AI-generated artwork pops up in contests, despite a lot of controversy, and they’re probably already flooding your social media feeds in one way or another. The great promise behind the ability to generate detailed images with just a few prompts and clicks, after all, it is the so-called democratization of creation. And on Steam, PC gameing’s most popular platform, the barrier to selling games is already quite low.
Walk in This girl does not exist, a recent Steam game with simple puzzle gameplay that nevertheless signals a massive change that will soon hit the gaming industry. The developer claims that everything from art to story to music was generated by some kind of AI. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s no surprise, as the game currently only has one review on Steam, and it’s not a positive one. But the story behind the game is curious and indicative of larger tensions that will only become more visible in space.
This girl does not exist is the product of a married couple, one of whom spoke to Kotaku via Discord for this story. ‘mrspotatoes’, as she calls herself on the chat app, noted that upon entering her husband was worried people would ‘hate it’ and ‘wouldn’t see it as ‘real art”, possibly even “do they perceive it as low effort” on the same level as an “asset flip”. She was more optimistic, however, hoping that people would be curious to see the “showcase of modern technology” and that gamers wouldn’t want to “miss the AI bandwagon” sweeping the wider online discourse at the moment.
Read more: Creating AI “art” is an ethical and copyrighted nightmare
Creating a game with AI-generated assets comes with its own unique challenges, as she puts it. Not having to make art from scratch means things go faster, but since This girl does not exist was a dating game, it needed several attractive and persistent characters for the player to fall in love. Each has its own story, voiceover and images. Using the popular image-generating AI called Midjourney, it took a lot of trial and error to find prompts that worked, and more trial and error to get similar results over multiple iterations.
“It’s something the AI struggles with,” the developer recounted, “how do I generate images of the same person, but in different poses/settings? I had to rerun a lot of commands and try several times until I pulled out a set of images that would be the “same person”.
After all, the pair sent the game to around 250 YouTubers, she claims. Almost no one bit. It’s by far the couple’s worst sale, she says, despite their back catalog featuring NSFW games that Steam hides if the user isn’t logged in. And it seems the unusual way they created the game’s assets was a major repellent for a few people.
“A [YouTuber] did a livestream but during that livestream people hated it…not the game, but the AI part,” she explained. “They wrote in the chat stuff like, ‘I feel like the AI is going to take our jobs / shitty vibes from the game.'”
The response has been disappointing, she says, especially since in their eyes the game is “revolutionary”. Still, based on our conversation, the answer doesn’t seem to deter the game developer couple from exploring the technology further. mrspotatoes says this will come into play in their next sexy game one way or another, but the AI will only help in certain aspects of development. Maybe less important details, she says, like UI or backgrounds.
“If I had to redo a whole AI game,” she mused, “maybe I would try to tell people only after I finished the game and see what the reactions would be, as I think with This girlmaybe people were prejudiced to begin with.