ChatGPT and game writing… is that a thing?
At first glance, you may be scoffing at the idea. AI writers? Horning in on my NPC dialog and the text in my design docs and back-of-box marketing material? Never! Not on my watch, good sir!
Okay, sure. But let’s change the scenario slightly. You’re some overworked slob and you oversee two high-school dropouts and one depressed PhD rejectee on the backstory team for a hardcore RPG knockoff of Skyrim. You have to generate 3000 pages of lore for the game that flesh out the kingdom’s deities, civilizations, beliefs, myths, and daily life. TEN novels’ worth of books, letters, journals, shopping lists, and memos. And you’re responsible for making sure every word of that matches the master worldbuilding guidelines and is complete in three months.
Tell me that ChatGPT isn’t whispering in your ear every night. Hey buddy! I can write all of those pages for you. How do you know your little team isn’t already suckling on my infinite content stream right now?
Yeah. Game writers and AI writing tools are a thing, and probably are already tangoing all over game project deliverables. If you oversee content quality, you need to address ChatGPT posthaste.
ChatGPT Tips for Game Writers
Know your team and discuss AI tools.
Don’t assume that your team is going to think about AI writing tools like you do. Get it out in the open and make sure your expectations are clear.
Use the tools if appropriate and if approved by management.
As above, don’t assume that management is okay with AI tools. Discuss it and put a plan together.
We do think there’s a place for ChatGPT and other tools in quality game writing IF (big if) there’s a careful strategy to build appropriate and human-filtered content that matches the mission. But… are you ready for some risks?
The first big risk here is that someone misses something critical and suddenly your game’s being mocked for years on social media because the AI made some boneheaded assumption.
The second big risk is that there’s certainly some chance of blowback if gamers find out that your game was built with AI tools. Are you willing to take that risk?
And the third big risk is a moral risk and a reputational risk. Game development is a creative field that relies on the respect and participation of talented creative people. Do you want to be in the vanguard of moving game development toward a dilution of human creative involvement? A lot of AI art tools are getting heat for cribbing elements from talented human artists, but the same is true of AI writing tools that crib phrases, styles, and word usage from writers who are getting no participation in the output. Do you want to be part of that… or to be known (fairly or unfairly) as the flagbearers for that?
Know the strengths and weaknesses.
Before you commit to using ChatGPT, generate at least a dozen writing samples in different styles and see if you really like what you’ll be getting.
Do it for the right reasons.
Are you tempted by ChatGPT because of its potential to open up new horizons? Or are you just desperate because the schedule’s so tight?
Don’t get hemmed into doing something unwise just because it’s there. If ChatGPT looks like the easy exit to a terrible schedule quandry, maybe you should be thinking about how you got in this quandry in the first place. Be aware of the choices and options you have. Don’t let management or your publisher force you into using it just because they failed to give you adequate time to do your job.
Some Other Writer Angles
I’m also the editor-in-chief at a genre-oriented literary journal, where we’ve been talking about this issue quite a bit. From that perspective, the challenge is similar but different; we’re trying to maintain content quality and detect AI-generated writing in our submissions (stories sent in by writers for publication). Some specific and time-honored formats are particularly susceptible to abuse. Obviously hack writers will always be terrible, but we fear to think about what a skilled and unethical writer could do with these tools. And they’ll get better… the tools and the hacks.
We’re thinking of requiring some kind of human verification for submissions. Perhaps 2FA or even a credit card charge of a few cents that is immediately refunded after the writer verifies the amount.
And of course there’s some talk about what the effect will be on fiction writers and publishers. Will this augment or devalue art? My vote is sadly the latter. I think there will be some amazing AI-augmented works that we’ll all admire. They’ll be astounding. And of course the most famous 1% of human writers will continue to flourish in the limelight. But the rank and file writers will suffer in obscurity, just like realist painters and advertising artists suffered when photography took the fore. Follow the money. The gatekeepers are already struggling to tell the fakes from the originals, and the fakes are basically FREE. That’s the collapse of the economy.
I do fear we’ll be looking back on this development with regret. Fingers crossed that I’m wrong.