In the final episode of this series of the Playable Futures Podcast, Will Freeman chats to Mitu Khandaker, CEO and Co-Founder of mobile studio Glow Up Games, about the impact of AI on games and what they mean for the future of play.
Whatever your views are on AI, it’s very much here to stay. But what does it mean for video games - and is it quite as terrifying as some might have us believe?
As the former Creative Partnerships Director at Spirit AI, an artificial intelligence company that aims to foster safer online communities by using language detection technology in online spaces, Mitu Khandaker knows a thing or two about where AI might be taking us.
You can read highlights from the episode below the podcast player.
The Playable Futures Podcast accompanies Playable Futures, a collection of insights, interviews and articles from global games leaders sharing their visions of where the industry and medium will go next. A series of ten articles so far have been published on GamesIndustry.biz, with more planned. Playable Futures is a collaborative project brought to you in partnership with GamesIndustry.biz, UKIE and Diva.
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Title music by Thomas Marchant. Episode produced by Keira Freeman.
Having left Spirit AI in 2019 to focus on Glow Up Games, the developer and publisher Khandaker co-founded with a view to creating games and narrative stories for diverse audiences, AI has remained a foundational interest.
"Like being a parent, it's not something where you're just like, ‘Okay, here you go. I've loaded up all the information. Off you go,’" she explains. "That's not desirable for a number of reasons. It's more a long term process of teaching and then re-teaching and curating. That is going to be really important to do with the future of any kind of AI system."
An oft repeated concern among critics of AI is the technology’s potential to replace the role of the creator, which Khandaker is keen to dispel.
"The idea of authorship is still incredibly important to this," she states. "Where the authorial background to these systems have come from is still super important… You still need that curatorial hand in all of this."
With the introduction of tools such as Midjourney, AI has provided efficiencies for smaller creators who don’t have the manpower to turnaround assets as quickly as a AAA studio. Khandaker acknowledges that the conversation has often centred around jobs being replaced, but argues that this isn’t always the case.
"I think it’s an important conversation to have," she concedes. "But on the flip side, when you're a very small, under-resourced team, and you perhaps wouldn't have hired a fancy concept artist anyway, it kind of helps you out to be able to say, ‘Cool, give me this image that I need for this pitch deck.’"
Khandaker’s previous work includes the game Redshirt, a social simulation game that puts players in control of a space station resident who navigates social media to improve their standing. The implications of AI for character creation is vast and is likely the space where the technology will continue to have the most significant creative impact.
"I think there's an exciting opportunity to invent brand new mechanics, which centre on the idea of conversation more," she enthuses. "It's probably a sort of tougher commercial case to have conversation be a primary mechanic, but I can see conversational characters rising in prevalence as a secondary mechanic."
To that end, it seems unlikely that AI will be replacing the humble video game designer any time soon - not least because there are a lot of sensitivities that a computer simply isn’t mindful of.
"There's been so much discourse already around things like creating characters with black hair, for instance. There's a long history of games getting that incredibly wrong." she adds. "As we move forward, there is a sort of opportunity for AI to help generate all kinds of diverse characters, but again, this is where who's behind it comes into play."