Chinese anime and game artists lose jobs because of the rise of AI-generated art

Aron Chen

posted on April 11, 2023 8:48 pm

AI-generated art started causing negative impacts on China's gaming and animation industries, with many animators and game artists losing their jobs recently.

Huang Yimeng, the founder of the Shanghai-based video game studio XD, tweeted that he has spoken with two game studios that had been less dependent on outsourcing businesses. One of them has cut ties with a provider of crucial animation services, while the other has stopped using freelance translators. According to Huang, AI has already started to affect many people's professions.

Game artists face a growing challenge from AI art in particular, but more than anything else, to newbies to the industry, "there is growing consensus that at the very least we'll have some job loss, especially in entry level employment," Huang adds, adding while those with rich experience and ability may not be directly affected, the loss of junior posts might have an impact on the entire business.

On the other hand, professionals typically view computer-generated anime as a cost-saving measure. As one might expect, animating a 3D model with hand-drawn features is less expensive than meticulously drawing each frame 24 times a second.

Almost 30% of the workers have been let go as a result of ongoing layoffs that occurred in the first three months of this year, said Wang Si, director of special effects at a business that outsources game development.

One game industry insider posted on social media about a 50-person animation company that had been "downgraded" from creating original animation to merely embellishing AI-generated images.

"My friend told me that he initially planned to hire human artists through the gig-work platform, but he quickly found out that human artists were too expensive to make the game worthwhile. Instead, he started using A.I.-based image generators to depict each day's rhyming word pair. Instead of completely replacing interior designers, generative AI will aid them in the brainstorming process early on in a project."

Chen Xi Yan, founder of Yimi Tech think that the creative process at every advertising agency will incorporate generative AI. But, he does not believe that adopting artificial intelligence will significantly accelerate the work of the agencies or replace their art sections. He claimed that many of the visuals produced by artificial intelligence weren't up to par to be displayed to clients and that new users of these apps would definitely waste a lot of time coming up with the appropriate prompts.

A.I.-based image generators like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion have made it feasible for anyone to generate distinctive, hyper-realistic images by simply entering a few words into a text box during the past several months.

These applications employ so-called "generative AI," which gained popularity a few years ago with the introduction of text-generating software like GPT-3 but has since been extended to include images, audio, and video.

These apps, though new, are already astoundingly popular. LOFTER, a prominent Chinese fanart platform supported by NetEase, for example, has had a notable impact on the Chinese App Store's Top Charts. The platform recently went viral over its new AI drawing feature called the "Old Pigeon Drawing Machine, which enables users to turn their selfies into styled portraits of themselves as sci-fi, anime, or fantasy characters, among other artistic renderings.

However, the popularity of AI-based image generators has sparked a debate in the AI artist and anime communities over the use of technology versus sticking to traditional methods in anime painting.

One of the major concerns of the creators is whether their original work has been properly used by AI. This brings up a fundamental problem with algorithmically created art: It can only learn by copying. You must teach AI to be creative using a library of training data because it cannot do so on its own.

A number of issues are also raised by this unregulated use of source images, not the least of which is the legal risk that businesses are taking by utilizing the technology. On the client-facing side, there is also a lack of transparency because the training data for many AI products does not make public.

The backlash from anime fans and communities has been swift, reflecting real fears about being copied or automated out of a job.

Fans and creators have launched an online campaign to backlash against "Old Pigeon" through No To AI-Generated Images" hashtag on Chinese social media.

Of course, the creators of the A.I.-based image generators are aware that borrowing copyrighted works for their training data could cause trouble. LOFTER clarified the "Old Pigeon Drawing Machine Beta" was a profile photo generator created to assist users who lack the artistic ability to create profile images.

The statement went on to say that in the event that users find out that the generator has copied their work, the site will pay the original author 10,000 CNY (or $1,440 USD) for each incidence of replication.

Photo by DeepMind on Unsplash