Racist AI-Generated Art is Rampant in Fortnite Right Now

Substitute words:

– boot up: start
– Fortnite: popular video game
– Epic: game developer
– game’s: video game’s
– user-created: player-made
– AI-generated: artificially intelligent
– Epic’s: game developer’s
– Fortnite Festival: Fortnite event
– Rocket Racing: Rocket Racing game
– Lego Fortnite: Fortnite LEGO
– Fortnite’s: the game’s
– UEFN: Fortnite’s
– Fortnite: the game
– battle royale: multiplayer mode

Revised sentences:

If you start playing the popular video game right now and begin exploring the game’s extensive amount of player-made content, you’ll quickly notice a strange pattern: Many player-made maps and modes feature artificially intelligent artwork of large men, often bare-chested, smiling, and holding food. Some of these images also feature crude, racist depictions of people. And yet, thousands of players across the game’s platforms are playing these modes and Epic seems unaware of the situation or isn’t stepping in to remove the offensive images flooding the game.

The game’s popular multiplayer mode launched in 2017 and within months became a massive success for the game developer. Seven years later, the game is much more than a multiplayer mode. The game now contains other games, such as Fortnite events, Rocket Racing game, and LEGO Fortnite. It also includes a robust content creator that lets players build new maps and games inside the game alone or with friends. Folks can also use Fortnite’s-focused version of Epic’s Unreal Engine, to craft new content for the game. In many ways, and this is part of the game developer’s plan, the game is no longer a multiplayer mode game first and foremost. Instead, it’s become a free-to-play video game platform that has millions of players across console, PC, and cloud streaming.

As a platform, the game offers creators everywhere a free way to create and distribute content to millions of players and get paid if any of those creations hit it big. But that easy access to a large audience that is hungry for new content has, inevitably, led to the game becoming overfilled with copycats and clones who look for the latest trend and milk it, filling the platform with garbage.

The game is filled with horrible artificially intelligent art. Recently, the biggest trend is using artificially intelligent images of sometimes-racist caricatures of large, bare-chested men to try and squeeze money out of the game developer’s shooter. I used both the official video game website and third-party site Fortnite.GG to comb through thousands of player-made maps. I was able to document over 120 instances of artificially intelligent images of large men and women advertising user-made maps.

Scrolling through player-made content you’ll quickly spot dozens and dozens of maps sporting names like “ARAB ZONEWARS,” “Niger ZoneWars,” “Nigerian Zonewars,” “AFRICA ZONEWARS,” and “CHINA Zonewars.” It’s shockingly easy to find images featuring Middle Eastern men holding bombs, black men eating fried chicken, and Mexican men wearing sombreros and eating tacos.

While most of these maps have only a few players active, others can get quite popular. In fact, the player-made game that likely helped start this trend—Jamaica Zonewars—hit over 35,000 active players on January 5. For some context, that would put it roughly in the top 40 on SteamDB at the time of this writing, above games like Tekken 8, Stardew Valley, and Red Dead Redemption II.

Jamaica Zonewars’s thumbnail featured an artificially intelligent image of a large, bare-chested black man wearing green, yellow, red, and black. And it seems as that game became popular, other creators decided to copy the formula.

Since Jamaica Zonewars launched on December 30, a flood of copycats has followed. While many have expanded to other countries, Jamaica is still a popular theme on the game’s platform. You can find close to 100 of these copycats in the game’s multiplayer mode. Some add extras, like fried chicken, weed, and monkeys.

Players are complaining about the game developer’s lack of moderation. Things have gotten so bad that you can now regularly find players on Reddit and elsewhere openly asking why the game developer allows this kind of content to flood the game’s creative maps and modes. Most players believe the game developer has a small or non-existent moderation team. Others suggest that, because some of these creations are doing so well on the platform, the game developer may be inclined to let these things live on and bring in more players and money.

Kotaku has contacted the game developer about the situation.

In the past, the game developer’s CEO Tim Sweeney has claimed that the company sees itself on “both sides” of the artificially intelligent art conversation, telling PC Gamer in March 2023: “We’re creatives ourselves. We have a lot of artists in the family. We’re a tool company, too. We support a lot of game developers. Some of them will use AI, some of them will hate AI, and we want to be a trustable neutral intermediary that doesn’t get in the way of industry development, but also isn’t going off and hoovering up everybody’s art data.”

It’s impossible to say for sure if all the artificially intelligent art in the game right now was created using stolen, “hoovered-up” data. But it’s very likely that these creators aren’t training their own AI tools on their own art to create these often-racist images. And ignoring the issues with AI imagery and generation, it’s worrying to see the game developer seemingly not concerned that its platform is filling up with such awful, offensive art.

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