The use of AI art across various mediums continues to accelerate, and now it’s made its way into two new controversies involving Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering and Respawn’s Apex Legends.
Both have been accused of using AI art, or at least AI “human touched” art for various promotions. The larger case is probably what’s going on with Wizards of the Coast, as after they were accused of using AI art in a promotional piece, they doubled down, telling players they were “confused” by it being different than Magic card art, and that it was created by humans, not AI.
This is just…not true. Hundreds of people pointed out inconsistencies with the artwork which had clear signs of AI generation, leaving a few options on the table that WotC was either not telling the truth about the art, or whoever the artist was hadn’t told them the truth. Or, there’s a third option that combines AI art and human touch-ups that they’re trying to pass off on a technicality, which may be the most likely.
This accelerated quickly, as famed artist Dave Rapoza announced he would no longer work with Wizards of the Coast due to the situation, where it was amplified not just by the doubling down, but because Wizards had also just put out a strong anti-AI statement saying they would refrain from using AI generative tools to create final Magic projects. “Final” Magic projects.
Fans believe there are at least two other images from this specific promotional campaign using AI art, and what may be happening here is that a base image is generated with AI, and then a human artist goes through it touching it up. But they can’t fix everything, so many of the trademarks of AI art slip through the cracks. But for a game that prides itself on beautiful, memorable card art, it’s an especially pronounced problem, as you can see by Rapoza quitting on the spot. They have not posted any addendums to their last statement on January 4.
The other controversy with Apex Legends seems a little more straightforward, but fans are not happy about it all the same. Over there, fans also spotted trademarks of AI art in a promotion for the game, but this time what seems to have happened is that original animation was run through some sort of AI filter, stylizing it but leaving those AI artifacts around to be spotted.
Both of these situations may share a similar disconnect, that perhaps the marketing arm of these companies are doing these AI-based changes while the actual art and animation departments don’t have anything to do with it. But with no apologies so far, it’s not clear how much the companies care about responding.
We are seeing the use of AI art starting to skyrocket across multiple industries like this, as I’m sure the idea here is that if an image can be generated that is at least “good enough,” and the problems being pointed out are zooming in on specific details 98% of people wouldn’t notice, they don’t about the small number of people they’re offending if they’re saving time and money on artists.
But…artists make the original art for these card games and video games, and if you’re losing someone like Dave Rapoza for some one-off ad, that is not a trade you want to make. We’ll see if these company’s have any other response, or if WotC specifically revisits their proud declaration that this wasn’t AI art, when it clearly is.