'Pokémon' Fans Suspect AI Art Is Being Considered In A Trading Card Illustration Contest, And The Pieces Are Still Eligible To Win

June 25th, 2024 - 12:53 PM EDT by Adam Downer

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AI-generated fan art submissions Pokemon contest controversy.

Ten days ago, The Pokémon Company revealed the 300 finalists in the company's regular trading card illustration contest in which an artist can win having their fan art released as an official Pokémon card.

Instantly, fans noticed something amiss, as several finalists appeared to be using AI-generated art.

RacieBeep pointing out AI-adjacent art

The contest allowed entrants to submit three drawings for consideration. The rules instructed users, "Do not copy or trace illustrations from existing products, official images published online, etc., or original works by other artists."

Thus, the six drawings from users all with nearly identical names that all had the initials "VK" immediately struck fans as suspicious. Additionally, these users' pieces all had a glossy sheen typical of modern AI art generators. Suspecting foul play, fans began to voice outrage about the inclusion of the pieces in the contest's finals.

lewchube pointing out evidence

To be clear, there's no proof that the pieces are AI-generated, nor is there proof that "Vigen Khachadoorian" and "Vigo Khachadoorian" are the same person.

However, late last night, Pokémon announced that some entrants "violated contest rules" and were disqualified. They stated that "additional artists participating in the contest will soon be selected to be among the top 300 finalists," meaning that artists that just missed the top 300 will replace the disqualified contestants.

Fans celebrated the announcement, assuming that Pokémon had disqualified the suspected AI-generated artwork.

A perhaps premature thanks

However, as of the time of writing, the six pieces suspected to be AI-generated by Misters Khachadoorian and "K" still remain listed on the landing page for the finalists. The Pokémon TCG company's announcement did not list which entrants were disqualified, nor what rules were broken, leaving open the possibility that those pieces weren't the ones disqualified (it's also possible the page hasn't yet been updated while the contest's judges select new finalists).

There are still two rounds of judging to go as the judges narrow the finalists down to decide an eventual winner, so it remains unlikely that the "VK" pieces, if they're even still eligible, will win.

Nevertheless, if the judges discovered that one "artist" submitted multiple AI-generated pieces that exceeded the submission limit and disqualified that entrant, that would be cause for celebration among artists and Pokémon fans against artificial intelligence — but that remains an "if" as of now.

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