It’s possible that Essen doesn’t ring a bell to you. At first glance, it’s just a German city without anything special, but it hides a secret not everyone knows: it’s the place where the world’s largest tabletop gaming fair has been held since 1983, spanning across numerous gigantic industrial halls where fans, stores, conferences, novelties, signings, and even exclusives gather. The problem is that this year, four decades after its start, they have messed up. Big time.
Artificial board games
If there’s something that sets tabletop games apart from any other hobby, it’s the fact that, if you want them to be even a bit original, they have to involve human creativity. You can’t create mechanics out of thin air; they need to have a specific art style and feel genuine. Or at least, that’s how it has been until artificial intelligence entered our lives.
When you can save a few bucks on something as crucial as the presentation of your gigantic fair, how can you resist it? Essen has decided to use AI for ticket images, posters, and other materials, resulting in drawings that are frankly ugly (those smiles, those six fingers) and have given them an unprofessional appearance that might cost them dearly.
To calm the situation, Spiel Essen has announced that they only wanted to understand the capabilities of AI and that “protecting the rights of artists is a priority.” They said this while covering the city with these deformed drawings. Could it be the worst defense ever made? Certainly, especially considering that the fair starts the day after tomorrow on the 5th, and they have run out of time to change it after the backlash on social media.
Last year, over 200,000 people attended Essen, and even more will attend in 2023. It’s hard-earned money that could have been well spent on paying an artist to create something truly original. Moreover, at the beginning of the year, it was announced that after forty years, the convention would have a mascot, Meeps, an adorable tiger created by game illustrator Michael Menzel. Now, it has disappeared from all sites to be replaced by this genuine outrage. Absolutely dreadful.