The Finals AI Voices Controversy Explained


The Finals AI Voices Controversy Explained

Aditi Joshi
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The Finals is a recently released first person shooter which has already found itself wound up in controversy.
The controversy began with the audio director of the game, Andreas Almström, revealing that the devs utilized AI in the game for voice overs.
This caused major backlash, further reverberating the conversations surrounding use of AI.

While the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been praised by some, it has also been raising eyebrows in the society. A lot of us have been speculating its implications for a while now. One of the serious concerns about this technological development is the loss of jobs for humans. This fears is seemingly high in the gaming community.

In one such outcry against AI in gaming industry, several actors who lend their voices to video game characters protested the use of AI voices in the newly released first-person shooter, The Finals. The Finals faced criticism for using AI-generated voice overs instead of actual actors.

Many came forward, opposing the idea and expressed dissent upon this use of AI. They believed that it will shatter the gaming job industry immensely if AI takes over. Let us take a look at where the controversy stemmed and what have other voice actors said about it.

Audio Director of The Finals Embraces AI

During the second Closed Beta of The Finals, in a podcast episode of Meet the Makers which aired in October 2023, audio designers Andreas Almström and Carl Strandberg talked about the game's voice overs. However, one of their answers clearly created the backlash. They revealed, “We use AI with a few exceptions. So all the contestant voices, like the barks and both of our commentators, are AI text-to-speech.”

This strategic choice, aimed at enhancing agility and freshness in the game, ignited a broader conversation about the role of AI in creative domains.

AI Voice Overs Face Backlash on Twitter

Almström's revelation prompted swift backlash on social media, with voice actors expressing their dismay. Voice actor Gianni Matragrano, who has previously worked in Evil West, Vertigo 2, and more, criticized Embark Studios. He took to Twitter to say that the sound in The Finals is not good and that the studio takes player feedback into consideration.

Paxson Helgesen, a voice actor and senior sound designer at Bungie, urged developers to reconsider treating voice as merely an "asset" in the agile development pipeline.

Likewise, Gearbox Software narrative director Sam Winkler wrote, "Shipping content with AI voice over is bad, flat out. Especially for a game that has so clearly polished every other aspect of its presentation to a gleaming finish, this sticks out like an infected thumb."

Embark Studios' Response to Criticism

As The Finals' open beta faced criticism for its use of AI voices, Embark Studios released a public response. It clarified that a "game without actors isn't the end goal," acknowledging the mixed usage of AI and real voice actors. The statement outlined the specific areas where AI voices were employed, including callouts, while affirming that in-studio voices contributed to other sound effects.

While this did not satisfy a lot of people, many are happy with the company's transparency. This has further sparked the conversations surrounding the fair use of AI and workers rights.

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Aditi Joshi is an English Literature student who indulges in the world of gaming when she's not working. She finds enjoyment in the immersive world of gaming.

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