It was bound to happen. AI-generated art pieces are popping up in competitions, despite much controversy, and they’re likely already flooding your social media feeds in some way or form. The big promise behind the ability to generate detailed images with just a few prompts and clicks, after all, is the so-called democratization of creation. And on Steam, PC gaming’s most popular platform, the barrier for selling games is already pretty low.
Enter This Girl Does Not Exist, a recent Steam game with simple puzzle gameplay that nonetheless signals a massive change that will soon hit the gaming industry. The developer claims that everything, from the art to the story to the music has been generated by AI of some kind. If you haven’t heard of it that’s not surprising, 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 within the 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 going in, her husband was worried that people would “hate it” and “disregard it as not ‘real art,’” perhaps even “perceive it as low effort” on the same level as an “asset flip.” She however was more optimistic going in, hoping that people would be curious to see the “showcase of modern technology” and that players wouldn’t want to “miss the AI train” that’s sweeping larger online discourse right now.
Making a game with AI-generated assets comes with its own unique challenges, as she tells it. Not having to make art from the ground up does mean things move quicker, but since This Girl Does Not Exist was a dating game, it needed multiple attractive, persistent characters for the player to romance. Each one has their own story, voice over, and imagery. Using the popular image generation AI called Midjourney, it was a lot of trial and error to hit upon prompts that worked, and more trial and error to get usably similar results across multiple iterations.
“This is something with which the AI struggles,” the developer recounted, “how to generate images of the same person, yet in different poses / settings? I had to rerun a lot of the commands and try many times until I got out of it a set of pictures which would be the ‘same person.’”
After all was said and done, the pair sent the game to around 250 YouTubers, she claims. Almost nobody bit. It’s been the couple’s worst-selling by far, she says, despite having their back catalog containing NSFW games that Steam hides if the user isn’t logged in. And it seems that the unusual way they created the game’s assets was a major repellant for some people.
“One [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 the AI is gonna take our jobs / crap vibes from the game.’”
The response was disappointing, she says, especially since in their eyes the game is “revolutionary.” Still, based on our conversation, the response doesn’t seem to be deterring the game-developing couple from exploring the technology further. mrspotatoes says it’ll come into play in their next sexy game somehow, but AI will only assist in some aspects of the development. Maybe less important details, she says, like the UI, or the backgrounds.
“If I would do a whole AI game again,” she mused, “I would maybe try to tell people only after they finish the game and see what would the reactions be, as I think with This Girl, maybe people had prejudices up front.”