The use of AI art in board games has been a hot topic lately, and for good reason. Its use in commercial work is in both a morally and legally grey area (to be generous). Recently, Kickstarter announced that they weren’t banning products using AI art on their platform, but are requiring creators to disclose when they are being used.
Board game publisher Stronghold Games recently launched their latest crowdfunding campaign for their mega-popular Terraforming Mars line of games. Terraforming Mars is currently sitting at #6 on BGGs all-time rankings and has successfully funded 5 Kickstarters for millions of dollars to 10s of thousands of backers. So to say it’s been a commercial success would be an understatement.
While the are a lot of fans of its gameplay, its artwork and components have never been the game’s strongpoint. In the past, Terraforming Mars has used mainly stock imagery for its artwork. With this newest expansion, Stronghold Games appears to have made the jump to AI art. Here is the disclosures from their Kickstarter page:
“I plan to use AI-generated content in my project. What parts of your project will use AI generated content? Please be as specific as possible.
We have and will continue to leverage AI-generated content in the development and delivery of this project. We have used MidJourney, Fotor, and the Adobe Suite of products as tools in conjunction with our internal and external illustrators, graphic designers, and marketers to generate ideas, concepts, illustrations, graphic design elements, and marketing materials across all the elements of this game. AI and other automation tools are integrated into our company, and while all the components of this game have a mix of human and AI-generated content nothing is solely generated by AI. We also work with a number of partners to produce and deliver the rewards for this project. Those partners may also use AI-generated content in their production and delivery process, as well as in their messaging, marketing, financial management, human resources, systems development, and other internal and external business processes.
Do you have the consent of owners of the works that were (or will be) used to produce the AI generated portion of your projects? Please explain.
The intent of our use of AI is not to replicate in any way the works of an individual creator, and none of our works do so. We were not involved in the development of any of the AI tools used in this project, we have ourselves neither provided works nor asked for consent for any works used to produce AI-generated content. Please reference each of the AI tools we’ve mentioned for further details on their business practices.”
This bit of double-speak doesn’t quite spell out what exactly is 100% AI art, or what was used as a base. It does say that there is a “mix of human and AI-generated content”, but no one is quite sure what that mix could be. It could be an AI-generated image brought into Photoshop and given a slight levels adjustment. Boom, mixed-use. Regardless, this is one of the first major publishers to openly use AI art in their game.
Comments from the community have not been positive.
new terraforming mars kickstarter campaign raised over $1M yet they’re using midjourney??? can someone please make it make sense? https://t.co/IiXxH0djK3
— brenna ♈️ (@brennanoonan) September 13, 2023
It’s wild seeing an established tabletop game company raise over $1 mil for their current campaign that is actively using AI/midjourney art pic.twitter.com/1cbPg4bLrI
— Ross Thompson (@AlmostKirk) September 13, 2023
The only thing more embarrassing than the stock photos used in the original Terraforming Mars is the fact that @StrongholdGames is using AI “art” in their new campaign. You’re setting a terrible precedent for the hobby. Pay your artists, you absolute grifters. https://t.co/gZZIALX5yU
— Arcane Comics & More (@ArcaneComics) September 13, 2023
Seeing AI art used in a successful board game series is incredibly disappointing.
I ran a website interviewing and spotlighting board game artists for years because they deserve more credit for the incredible work they do. This ain’t it. https://t.co/XAadcIoBpa
— Ross 📷🎲 MoreGamesPlease 🔜 Essen Spiel (@MoreGamesPls) September 14, 2023
When they used clip art in previous versions of the game, I turned up my nose and just played. I am astounded that they found a way to make the situation worse, but here we are. Please don’t support this malarkey. https://t.co/Pfg7id9Pjq
— Patrick Leder (@PatrickLeder) September 14, 2023
I generally avoid editorializing in news posts, but as someone who is part of the creative industry, this is deeply disturbing. Seeing a major publisher openly use AI art is just wrong. Terraforming Mars has made millions and millions of dollars. Art is expensive, good art even more so. But this is not an indie publisher just trying to make it or test the waters. This is a product Stronghold Games knows will sell. Do better.