AI in video games sparks debate over who should write stories: NPR

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Screenshot from Nvidia and Convai’s recent demonstration video of AI in video games.

Screenshot by NPR

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Screenshot by NPR

Screenshot from Nvidia and Convai’s recent demonstration video of AI in video games.

Screenshot by NPR

Is the future of artificial intelligence in video games playing in a cyberpunk ramen bar? Tech companies would like you to think so, but game writers aren’t so sure.

In a recent demo by tech company Nvidia, a human player spoke to two video game characters using a microphone — and the characters responded in real time using generative AI.

Nvidia is promising a new kind of storytelling made possible by generative AI technology.


In a press release, Nvidia said the technology allowed “normal non-playable characters (NPCs)” to be “turned into dynamic, interactive characters capable of initiating conversations, or players searching for them.” Provide knowledge of the game to help.”

Nvidia partnered with tech startup Convai for the demo, but they’re not the only ones pushing the new technology. At this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, March 18-22, new video games powered by generative AI technology are expected to be announced.

And companies at the forefront of AI aren’t just promising to do what human writers are already doing. They are promising to completely change the way video game stories are told.

It’s a claim that’s met with skepticism and reluctance across the industry.

Pushing the boundaries

In fact, change is already happening.

The tech is already widely used in game development. In a survey of more than 3,000 developers conducted by the Game Developers Conference, nearly a third say they are already using AI in their workplace. Business and marketing employees were the most likely to use it, while those working in narrative were the least likely.

But it is in the telling of the story that the promises and dangers are most closely observed.

Games often have hundreds of characters that work together to create a larger story and a more immersive experience. Until now, their dialogues have always been written by humans.

Yet Kylan Gibbs, who develops AI at his company Inworld AI, says creative technology can create a new relationship between author and creator.

“It means that everyone ends up with something that — whenever looking at the story of the world and the appeal of the narrative — they’re able to see from different angles,” he said.

Not everyone is so sure. Or, at least, not ready enough to start using AI in their games.

Josh Sawyer is the studio design director at Obsidian Entertainment, which made legendary games like Pentment, and Fallout: New Vegas, and he’s not sold on AI’s recent run.

“A lot of demos, I’m not going to lie, they sound impressive for one. Chatbot“He said, and it wasn’t something he would use in his games.

Fallout: New Vegas is a science fiction role-playing game that is beloved for its story and characters.


In a game like Fallout: New Vegas, which follows Earth’s remaining inhabitants living in the wake of a nuclear apocalypse, it’s the small interactions with the world’s many characters – and their carefully crafted responses – that make a good story.

“The appeal for our players is that the characters feel very specific,” Sawyer said. “I’m not trying to have too much normal dialogue.”

Zealvir Nelson Jr., who leads independent studio Strange Scaffold, has similar concerns. Everything in play needs to be filtered through a layer of intent, he says.

“When I hear about creating NPCs that make for better or equal gameplay experiences through AI responses, the first thing I have to ask is… how consistent would that create an experience for the player? Is?”

“Even if an NPC communicates in a million different ways … if it doesn’t add up to a broader message, you end up with what we call ‘gritty’ in games – a Sludge means or does nothing beyond that. The sheer amount of things that have been put into the world.”

A question of ethics

Joon Sang Park, an AI researcher at Stanford, doesn’t think creative AI will replace human writers who come up with high-concept, compelling stories.

Instead, he sees AI making many of the game’s smaller characters more complex, more dynamic, and more spontaneous.

“Where these agents are good is creating reliable micro-moments,” he said. “But they’re probably not going to be able to create individual, really fun stories.”

Still, today it’s the human writers who craft most of the one-liners and trivia that side characters in a video game say. According to Nelson Jr., if AI does that instead, it could put some writers out of work.

“When we eliminate positions for juniors, it means they don’t become mid-level. Which means they don’t become senior. Which means they don’t become the dynamic creative voices and directors of tomorrow. ,” They said.

Despite the fact that generative AI is already being used across the industry, 87% of game developers surveyed by the Game Developers Conference say they are at least somewhat concerned that the technology will affect games. How will it affect the industry?

That’s why for many it’s not a question of whether AI can do Write a good story – whatever it is. should.

“Ten years from now, AI may be so good at what it does that it’s indistinguishable from the best human writers,” says Eric Barron, who wrote and designed the hit game Stardive Valley all by himself. .

“I think we have to turn to a spiritual element here. I want to play human games, not games made by soulless machines.”

This is an ethical question that writers now face. But players will soon face it, and they will have to decide whether games written with artificial intelligence are games they want to play.

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