ai dungeon, a text-based fantasy simulation running on OpenAI’s GPT-3 has been producing strange stories since May 2019. Reminiscent of early text adventure games like Colossal cave adventureyou can choose from a range of formulaic settings – fantasy, mystery, apocalyptic, cyberpunk, zombies – before choosing a character class and name and creating a story.
Here was mine: “You are Mr. Magoo, a survivor trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world by searching the ruins of what is left. You have a backpack and a canteen. You haven’t eaten for two days and you’re desperately looking for food.” This is how Magoo’s 300-word story of suffering began, in which he, driven “half mad” by hunger, meets “a man in white”. (Jesus? Gordon Ramsay?) Magoo kisses him hello and gets stabbed in the neck.
As lame as this story is, it hints at a tangled copyright problem that the gaming industry is only just beginning to solve. I made a story with my imagination – but I used an AI helper to do it. So who wrote the story? And who gets paid for the work?
AI dungeon was developed by Nick Walton, a former researcher at a deep learning lab at Brigham Young University in Utah who is now the CEO of Latitude, a company that bills itself as “the future of AI-generated games.” AI dungeon is certainly not a mainstream title, although it has nonetheless gained traction millions of players. As Magoo’s story shows, the player drives the story with action, dialogue and description; AI dungeon reacts with text, like a dungeon master – or some kind of fantasy improvisation.
In several years of experimenting with the tool, people have created far more engaging D&D-style narratives than mine, as well as videos like “I broke the AI AI dungeon with my terrible writing.” It also sparked controversy, particularly when users called for creating sexually explicit content featuring children. And how AI dungeon– and similar tools – continue to evolve, they will raise increasingly difficult questions of authorship, ownership, and copyright.
Many games provide you with toolsets for creating worlds. Classic series like gloriole or Age of Empires include sophisticated map makers; Minecraft has created an open, imaginative form of gameplay The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the KingdomThe Fuse and Ultrahand abilities of are clearly inspired by: others like dreams or Robloxare less games than platforms where players can make more games.
Historically, ownership of in-game creations or user-generated creations (IGCs or UGCs) has been rendered obsolete by “take it or leave it” end-user license agreements—the dreaded EULAs that nobody reads. In general, this means that players relinquish all ownership of their creations by turning on the game. (Minecraft is a rare exception here. The EULA has long granted players ownership of their IGCs, albeit in relatively few community freakouts.)
AI adds new complexities. Laws in both the US and UK state that when it comes to copyright, only humans can claim authorship. So for a game like AI dungeonIf the platform essentially allows a player to “write” a narrative using a chatbot, ownership claims can be unclear: who owns the edition, the company that developed the AI, or the user?