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Video Games and AI in 2023

If you were on the internet at all at the end of 2022, you know that Lensa AI and other AI portrait generators were taking TikTok and other social media platforms by storm. Lensa specifically sparked many important conversations about privacy, the ethics of AI art, the exploitation of data, and more

As we take another step into the future and begin 2023, all of these discussions around AI have us wondering – where will the combination of AI and video games go this year? Like most things, artificial intelligence lands in a gray area. There are ways that it is harmful to people and also ways that it is useful. Let’s explore where AI meets video games and see where this year might be headed.

Before we jump into the latest AI video game news, we have to ask – are you interested in creating a game that incorporates AI or machine learning? Contact us with your idea today! We have 17 years of experience making impactful learning games, and at the time of writing this blog, we’re currently working with our friends at UW-Madison to create a game that uses AI to accurately represent the behavior of cows. Yep, you read that right! 

Games that make themselves

Artificial intelligence gained lots of relevance and buzz in many different industries in 2022 and continues to do so into 2023. Beyond AI art generation, there are YouTubers writing video scripts using AI, musicians using AI tools to compose, and screenwriters and playwrights utilizing AI to generate scripts faster than ever. And these are just a few examples of what creative AI tools exist these days!

Do these types of AI tools exist yet for video game creation? You bet. In fact, testing AI out in video games is particularly insightful for researchers. Matthew Guzdial, an AI researcher and assistant professor at the University of Alberta, tells TIME Magazine that “A game is fully observable in a way that much of the real world isn’t. Most importantly, it has rewards. It has a notion of ‘you are doing well’ or ‘you are doing badly.’ Building up those kinds of functions in life is extremely complicated.” In other words, video games are great educational tools themselves when it comes to understanding how AI algorithms function or malfunction.

In 2020, Guzdial and his team of researchers at the University of Alberta have been studying how AI may be used to effectively create a video game. To do so, the team had the AI “binge-watch” hours of platformers, with the goal of teaching it to create a Super Mario Bros style video game. After training the AI to reproduce a game, the AI began to combine games to create entirely new games with unique mechanics and rules. Check out the video below to see one of the games that Guzdial and his team created with AI!

Guzdial hopes this tool can help more people create games, rather than replace human designers and engineers altogether. He tells TIME: “The plan was always to use this to help people make games. It allows the user to basically define the set of rules that the AI has learned without having to explicitly know anything about coding.” 

Guzdial’s research began a few years back, and he doesn’t think that AAA games will be making themselves anytime soon. However, he does believe that eventually, indie developers and those without previous coding experience will be able to use AI to create games with features that may have previously been beyond their capacity. 

A new era of animation

AI has the potential to make game animators’ jobs a whole lot easier in the future! A recently published article titled “DeepPhase: Periodic Autoencoders for Learning Motion Phase Manifolds” by Sebastian Starke, Ian Mason, and Taku Komura explores how. 

If you don’t have the background knowledge to understand exactly what this paper is communicating, have no fear! Dr. Károly Zsolnai-Fehér has us covered on the Two-Minute Papers YouTube channel. This video is actually 6 minutes, but it summarizes all of the information for you and is totally worth a watch!

To summarize, animators can’t just take the recorded renderings of real humans and animals to make seamless motion in a video game, because video games allow a player to control a character’s movement. This new AI is making it possible for the transitions between characters’ movements to be smoother and more realistic looking than ever before. 

Driving forward

2022 was a year of significant innovation when it came to AI in video games, perhaps the biggest example being Sophy, an AI agent created by Sony for Gran Turismo (GT) 7. How Sophy works, and how it was created, is not exactly simple to explain – so why not learn more about it through the creators? Check out the video below to hear Sony employees and others explain the story of Sophy. 

What does this mean for the video game industry? Well, even if you’re not into cars or racing games, Sophy marks a huge leap of progress for AI in games, especially when it beat the top human players of GT. Sophy demonstrates how deep reinforcement learning can affect AI, and how developers can harness AI to take experiences and realism in games to new heights for players.  

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have the potential to change previous methods of creating, designing, and playing video games. Whether you realized it at the time or not, you’ve probably already played a game that incorporates AI in some way or another, whether it was used to enhance the artwork in a game or generate a scenario. Popular games such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Minecraft, and Rocket League all employ some version of AI to take gameplay to the next level. AI in video games is here to stay, and only time will tell exactly where it goes in 2023! What are your thoughts on AI in video games? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook

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