The active adoption of artificial intelligence is already having a significant impact on the video game industry in China. As reported by Rest of World, many game developers in China began to rely on AI-based image generators instead of human illustrators. The use of AI generators such as Midjourney and DALL-E allegedly began to gain momentum in February and has been growing exponentially ever since, both among small indie developers and regional giants such as Tencent and NetEase. They use AI to create characters, locations and promotional materials.

Indie developer Xiao Di admitted that he and other developers of his size have turned to AI as a cost-saving tool. They used to outsource their creativity to freelancers, but now they can use AI to create characters and backgrounds, keeping costs down. Game industry recruiter Leo Li found that the number of illustrator jobs has fallen by nearly 70% in the past year, in part due to the rapid growth of AI. “Bosses may be thinking they don’t need so many employees,” Li says.

Many artists in the gaming industry are also encouraged by employers to use AI generators as a way to improve productivity. Xu Yingying, an artist from an indie studio in Chongqing, China, told Rest of World that AI is “developing at a speed beyond our imagination. Two people could potentially do the work that used to be done by 10.”

AI is also making inroads into other departments of game development, such as writing, voice acting, and design, further influencing the employment prospects of human artists. Game artists in China have expressed fears that they will be replaced by artificial intelligence technology, a fear shared by artists in the wider creative field. In fact, sites like Kickstarter and ArtStation are seeing a rise in AI-powered artwork as the technology becomes more common.

In January, China introduced new rules requiring generators of “deep fakes” to clearly label content that could mislead civilians. The rule now extends to images and videos created with artificial intelligence, although it does not yet require customers to be informed about the use of artificial intelligence in games or other products.

Despite the concerns, companies in China continue to actively use AI as a means of improving productivity. Xiao Di believes that “AI illustration is just the beginning” and expects AI to be used in programming and customer service in the near future.