Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne looks at the controversy over the use of AI art in the new Terraforming Mars expansion.

AI-generated art has caused some controversy in the comic world, and Wizards of the Coast recently suffered some flack when an artist used AI-generated art in submissions  for the recent Bigby book (see "D&D: Glory").  Given that the use of AI is a hot topic currently, there is a bit of controversy that has arisen from the use of AI-generated art in the next Terraforming Mars expansion.  Kickstarter, which Stronghold Games uses to generate funds for and promote their game line, has implemented a policy of requiring companies to disclose the use of AI in any campaigns funded through the platform.  Enoch Fryxelius, the CEO of FryxGames (designers of Terraforming Mars), took to Facebook to explain the company’s choice to use AI-generated artwork in the game components.

Unfortunately, in his Facebook video addressing fans, I think he missed the point as he focused on the possibility of LLMs (Large Language Models) putting writers and artists out of work, which is a focal point of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes currently going on Los Angeles.  While certainly a matter of concern, the bigger issue is that creators have filed lawsuits against AI companies alleging that, by scraping massive amounts of content off the internet to create the databases from which AIs draw their work, they have ignored the copyrights of the creators whose art and writing they use to create AI-generated materials.  This is going to take awhile to play out in court, and you have the right of fair use running up against the right of creators to profit from their creations.

Meanwhile, Fryxelius said he will avoid the controversy with the next expansion to Terraforming Mars by using a human illustrator to do the work, rather than computer generated graphics, and pay them a fair rate.  Of course, since the illustrator they will use is his sister, I certainly hope they do not shortchange her.  It will be interesting to see how many companies start using some sort of AI-generated art on their products in the future as it is certainly cheaper than paying an artist to do it.

Authorship by LLMs is already a problem.  I've recently read an estimated 70% of the books currently on Amazon’s Top 100 Young Adult Romance list are LLM written.  I do not see that happening with games in the near future, as game rules do have to be tested and balanced out to ensure competitive gameplay, but I could certainly see, sometime in the future, a publisher creating a set of rules and having a LLM write the rulebook.  With the right prompts, that could work.

Remember that theft of some $300,000 worth of Magic cards from Gen Con in August (see "A Disney Line for the Ages and Other Gen Con Musings")?  It is an indication of how much the value of Commander Masters has plummeted from its release that, when the cards were recovered, the estimated value had dropped to $195,000 (see "Alleged 'Magic: The Gathering' Thieves Charged").  Not a real great return on anyone’s investment in a Magic: The Gathering product.  I certainly expect retailers to drastically cut back on any future Magic product offered at such high prices on release.

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The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of