Shall We Play A Game? Angelina's Got One In Mind

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Shall We Play A Game? Angelina's Got One In Mind

It's a strange sort of medium we've struck now in gaming. First came WOPR, who wanted to play a game with stakes of unusual depth. Then came Skynet, who turned the whole planet into a horrible game that featured a whole bunch of dead humans. But turning an AI into a gaming mechanism has produced something much different, as was revealed recently with the unveiling of ANGELINA.

ANGELINA, or A Novel Game-Evolving Labrat I've Named Angelina, was the creation of Michael Cook, a Goldsmiths College researcher and PhD student at Imperial College London, and it is, essentially, an artificial intelligence that can create games. It's actually based on an earlier AI experiment dubbed “The Painting Fool,” that developed visual art. But ANGELINA goes a little farther than that, building games out of snippets of code and assorted images and concepts, as well as a little something called “computational evolution” to turn the bits and pieces into a working game.

ANGELINA's stuff is a little...well...bizarre—it once built a game around an article it read about a child abuse ring that had been cracked and the participants arrested that started out as a platformer, until for little or no reason at all, someone started singing a lullaby in Icelandic—but so far, ANGELINA has generated around 40 different working games—less if your definition of “working game” is somewhat less charitable—and rapidly learns just what's needed to build a game. Originally, Cook needed to pick things like art assets or an overall visual style. But recently, ANGELINA can do many of those things itself.

Nothing ANGELINA has made will ever be mistaken for “Fallout: New Vegas.” Frankly, nothing ANGELINA has made will really be mistaken for “Angry Birds” from what I've seen so far. But the concept that an artificial intelligence could design games is both unnerving and intriguing. We've seen a lot of people lose their jobs to machines over the years, and the thought that an artistic job could be replaced by software is a strange thought indeed. But can the machine ever really replicate the “human element” that's so popular in gaming, movies, music or art?
The early word says maybe; right now, there's no way. ANGELINA's work is awful to say the least. But even five years ago, the idea that a computer program could make other computer programs was ludicrous beyond measure. In another five years, maybe 10, we may well routinely play games made by machines. It's hard to say just how far it can go, but the idea of turning over game production to other programs is bizarre and potentially a terrifying development.
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