Cyber Conversion | Doctor Who | Art by Eddie Schillo
3, Jun, 24

WOTC Is Back On Its AI Nonsense, And Fans Are Furious!

Article at a Glance

Despite seemingly having learned its lesson time and time again, Wizards of the Coast appears to be, once more, dabbling in AI. That looks to be the case, at least, following the recent reveal of a job listing posted to Hasbro’s careers website. Initially listed on May 9th, this job listing is now garnering a lot of attention, and not for good reasons.

To put it lightly, much of the MTG community, and the wider online world in general for that matter, have a strained relationship with Artificial Intelligence (AI). While AI can have fantastic life-changing possibilities, it’s equally able to steal the style and work from artists. Considering how intrinsic art is to both MTG and D&D, it’s unsurprising that players often quickly push back against any murmurings of AI.

Time and time again, MTG and D&D players have proved their disdain for AI to Wizards. Whenever AI art pops up, there are violent waves of criticism which typically result in an apologetic statement voting to do better. Recently, Wizards even set out a solid anti-AI policy. Based on this job listing, however, it appears internal sentiment may have changed.

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Chief Engineer | Magic 2015 | Art by Steven Belledin

Before we discuss things any further, let’s get all the details straight. What exactly is the new AI job WOTC is hiring for? The advertised position is ‘Principal AI Engineer,’ and it comes with a wide range of responsibilities. Based on the official job post, the chosen candidate will be in charge of running AI operations at a high level. They’ll be working on roadmaps, creating libraries of AI tools, and exploring more uses of AI in the game development process.

There will be some hands-on work as well. The chosen candidate will also need to “Design, build, and deploy systems for intelligent generation of text dialog, audio, art assets, NPC behaviors, and real time bot frameworks.” Based on this, you’d likely assume the role was for a video game and not anything Magic-related. If you did, you’d be right.

Just yesterday, WOTC responded to journalist Christian Hoffer’s questions regarding the new AI job listing with a statement. It read “Our stance on AI hasn’t changed. This job description is for a role for future video game projects.” While this could certainly include future MTG Arena developments, this likely means MTG is safe from the AI menace for now. By the time this statement arrived, however, it was already too late.

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Into The Inferno


As expected, once the Principal AI Engineer job listing was discovered, the community rushed to react. Twitter exploded with negative comments, including some from some key figures in the community. Jason Rainville, a prolific MTG artist who has worked on the game since 2014, was among them. “Boy howdy I’d love to see the explanation for this one.” he captioned a repost of the job listing on Twitter, “Mtg Amsterdam may be the last thing I do for WotC.”

He wasn’t alone in his condemnation, either. Pip the Spicy, a Local Game Store owner, also expressed their disappointment with the news. “WOTC is once again moving forward with their AI Plans & frankly– it’s time. I’ve closed my #dnd5e shop, & I will never create or sell a 5e product again.” These aren’t just posts of disapproval. They signal an exodus of crucial creatives and community pillars from not just MTG, but all WOTC products.

It may sound dramatic to say so, but this isn’t an isolated incident. WOTC, and MTG, by extension, have been involved in numerous AI-related controversies over the past year. We all remember the infamous Shocklands tweet, I’m sure. Couple these controversies with the huge Hasbro layoffs last year, and it’s no wonder the approval of Hasbro is so low. Taken together, these events create a worrying trend. The community, then, has every right to worry about the future of WOTC as a whole.

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What Does This Mean For Magic?


The outcome of this new AI job at WOTC remains to be seen. If the backlash continues to build, it may well be retracted altogether, like a similar role was at Gamurs last year. If it sticks, then WOTC could keep their word and use the AI technology only for game development busywork. Alternatively, the role could be the gateway into a much wider use of AI within the company, which could eventually spread and affect MTG, too.

Part of the listed role is to “Explore new uses of AI for all levels of game development.” With this in mind, it’s hard to imagine these uses won’t loop back around to Magic at some point. Since the listed uses are largely digital game-related, the end result may just be changes to MTG Arena. Even fairly mundane applications such as that could have a knock-on effect, though. Working with AI tools could normalize them within the company, at which point other uses, possibly even art-related ones, could again rear their ugly heads.

It’s hard to say what the upshot will be for this Principal AI Engineer role. It’s also hard to deny that such positions are growing more and more common by the day. As Jos√©phine McAdam noted in the Twitter discussion of the role, “Value will always be higher in things made from human creativity and talent, AI only cheapens your product. Not to mention condones *stealing work from others.*” It’s hard to disagree. Hopefully, major companies as a whole, not just WOTC, can learn this lesson before it’s too late.

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