These AI-generated Dukes Nukem never asked to be born

I have to be honest here, AI art bots like DALL-E (opens in new tab) scare the hell out of me, our overly optimistic tech dissidents once again announcing, “Man creating a thinking machine in his own image is radical as hell indeed!” These little man-made horrors beyond our comprehension have given us an unmistakable gift, however: some totally sublime shit posts.

Case in point: This series of AI-generated Dukes Nukem from the 3D artist’s mind @donhonk (opens in new tab) on Twitter and the mindless, pulsating creation engine that is midday. Inspired by the relentless Dukeposting of the Twitter game, @KinoFabino (opens in new tab) and the recent leak of 2001 compilation by Duke Nukem Forever (opens in new tab)Donhonk started producing some really messed up Dukes.

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This first round really sets the tone. The one in the lower left corner with Duke with his back to the camera, “Forever” embroidered on the back of his jacket is actually kind of tough, all things considered. A little human touch and it could be a poster or box art for a Duke revival perhaps. But that portrait in the upper left corner? You can’t convince me you’re not just a British Conservative politician wearing sunglasses. I’d check with our colleagues across the lake, but they’re all on a bloody vacation for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (innit).

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“Aged Tory facing an office harassment scandal” really seems to be Midjourney’s touchstone for close-ups of Duke’s face. This is not the hero of my youth.

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Donhonk gets a little spicy here with my personal favorite piece, “duke nukem trending on artstation unreal engine 5 part 2”. I have to admit I fell into the “Nintendo, hire this man” trap when talking about classic game enthusiast mockups (opens in new tab) in UE5, and this grotesquely jagged, glowing Duke emerging from what appears to be Tetsuo’s final form in Akira looks like some sort of gruesome mockery of form, like those “cartoon-but-real-life characters” from 3D Artist Miguel Vasquez (opens in new tab).

And that really gets to the heart of the matter with these AI artbots, doesn’t it? They have to be trained in human-made art by human programmers, and only truly sing when used as a tool by creative or playful humans. I’ve gotten a few laughs out of these things, but I also can’t shake the feeling that they’ll somehow end up as an excuse to pay people less one day.

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