AI Is Taking Jobs from Game Illustrators in China

"Two people could potentially do the work that used to be done by 10."

The discourse about AI-generated art becomes more widespread with every new tool appearing on the market. Artists are worried their jobs will be taken away from them, and it is not an empty thought.

According to Rest of World, some specialists, like freelance illustrator Amber Yu, have been receiving fewer commissions since February. Yu said companies now simply want her to fix small details for a tenth of her original rate. 

“AI is developing at a speed way beyond our imagination,” Xu Yingying, illustrator at an independent game art studio, told Rest of World. “Two people could potentially do the work that used to be done by 10,” she said. 

Top Chinese tech companies, like Tencent and NetEase, have been looking for a way to implement AI to cut development costs. A spokesperson at NetEase told Rest of World the company's goal has been "to develop better tools to enable our talented teams of art designers and illustrators to create assets faster or more efficiently during the game development process."

Amid the AI revolution, some artists felt like giving up drawing altogether. Yu said it was “despicable” that algorithms trained on humans' works were close to replacing the artists themselves. However, Yu plans to train AI programs with her drawings to improve her productivity. “If I’m a top-notch artist, I might be able to boycott [them]. But I have to eat.” 

In February, Chinese regulators reportedly ordered tech companies not to offer ChatGPT's services to the public, not because it could replace humans but because it gives uncensored replies. Later, Italy banned the chatbot due to privacy concerns.

Despite the rise of AI art, using it in production doesn't seem to sit well with many consumers, especially in the gaming industry. According to Rest of World, some players hope "there’s human labor behind [their] purchase".

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