Future of AI in video games focuses on the human connection

The future of gameplay is reliant on the usage and perfection of Emotional AI and its ability to create and emulate realistic and human relationships.

App developers, students and researchers are using the transformative power of AI technologies to develop people's emotional connection to video games.

Since the 2001 introduction of the first AI digital helper Cortana in Halo, technology and AI have become pivotal to gameplay. With all the buzz around the release of a new iteration of the popular GPT-3 video game tool, IT developers are more in tune than ever with the needs of creative deployments of popular AI technology. The future of AI in video games lies in the ability of the technology to increase the human connection.

The human connection

Since the dawn of chatbots and digital assistant creation, one critique has been universal: the helper is not human-like enough. This issue spans enterprises, and IT developers and startups are now developing AI that is human-like, emotional and responsive.

Christian Selchau-Hansen, CEO of enterprise software company Formation and former manager of product at social game development company Zynga, said that one of the major uses of AI in video games is the implementation of generative adversarial network (GAN) technology, image recognition and replication in character design. The ability of an algorithm to read emotion, generate emotion from text and accurately portray emotion enables a heightened level of gameplay.

"Whether it's GPT-3 or the processing and techniques of developments like deepfakes … the good things that come from [these developments] are more immersive worlds," Selchau-Hansen said.

"For people to be able to interact with more immersive and complex characters, and not just have the ability to interact with them -- but create new responses based on interactions through facial expressions, language, dialogue and actions," Selchau-Hansen said.

Danny Tomsett, CEO of UneeQ, a digital assistant platform creator, said emotional connection is the creation of a feeling between you and the story or character, and AI allows for the closest representation of visual humans.

Visual representations of humans are not as good as meeting in real life, but a model that can see your emotion and vice versa lets you respond dynamically, Tomsett said.

When looking toward the future of gameplay, Selchau-Hansen imagines a world where you have something akin to a physics engine during the game -- one that controls gravity, wind-resistance and thermal conductivity -- but for emotional interactions.

"You could have an emotional engine where your interactions with a [character] can make them sad, confused, scared, jealous -- and their dialogue would spring from those emotions," Selchau-Hansen said.

Monetizing emotion and brand loyalty

The gamification of AI has been a driver of technology, with iterations of DeepBlue and AlphaGo teaching developers that perhaps the most important part of augmenting gameplay is the ability to find the spot between competition and demolition. Gamers want to be challenged but still have a chance to win because their competitors are making human-like decisions.

This idea of competition between humans and computers, a friendly tussle between players, is central to creating brand loyalty -- returning players need to be challenged with dynamic, human-like bots on the other side of the game.

Creating brand loyalty in gaming is also about eschewing flat, two-dimensional, text-based digital interfaces to unlock the power of emotion and story, Tomsett said.

Another crossover between AI and gameplay is the ability to personalize. Much like marketing campaigns and personalized promotions, the future of AI in the video game industry depends on monetizing the emotional connection between the game and the consumer. Algorithms collect data from the game -- what the player collects, what quests they follow, what skins they use -- and suggest and alter additional downloads that have the highest chance of winning over the player.

From gameplay to retail to IT personalization, AI is being used to create and strengthen the idea of product value. That value -- monetary, recreational or business-related -- is offered to the consumer to increase the likelihood of brand loyalty, Selchau-Hansen said.

AI-generated games highlight limits of non-humanoid interaction

While the future of AI in video games would naturally point to automation and generated text, the AI-generated video games now testing the fringes of current gaming technology also highlight their limits.

Independent designers are toying with open-source technology to use natural language generation to create virtual games without a gaming studio. Developer Nick Walton's AI Dungeon storytelling game throws you into the development of the decision tree -- your choices change the outcome and help train the game for future players. This interactive virtual role-playing game is modeled on Open-AI's machine learning-based GPT-2 natural language generator. Walton tuned more than 117 parameters and crafted neural networks to output this unique story text.

But the game reflects many of the major issues of language generation. The game is a chaotic story as the program cannot tell what you know or if you have seen a character before. Some of the language is nonsensical. There is no human emotion or human decision making.

Michael Cook, a research fellow at the Royal Academy of Engineering, developed Angelina, an AI digital assistant who is trained to develop intelligently designed videogames.

Angelina is designed to make games based on simple theme inputs and is the first system to make 3D games within the game design engine Unity. Despite the nonsensical gameplay, somewhat comical instability and terrible UX, games by Angelina are an interesting foray into what it means to train an AI or machine learning system -- it's a peek into the mechanics of how to train computational creativity. When you input a word or phrase, Angelina accesses a word association database to create a framework for creation. A "secret" theme leads to word associations like "crypt," "dark," "hidden" and "dungeon," but it can also lead to a tangled web of characters, color and ineffective jump-scares.

It's clear that the future of AI in video games lies somewhere between generated text and finely crafted human emotion to wrangle consumers.

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