Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) in video games. It can make allies extremely annoying like getting in your way as in the original Uncharted. It can also make enemies unrealistically-foolish, something that bothered me while playing Watch Dogs. A.I. can, however, be helpful in some games, like Ellie’s supply-giving when needed in The Last of Us. But can the limitations of A.I. take away from the storytelling and overall fun of a game?
Before continuing, you may be wondering: what is A.I. exactly? In simple terms, a set of programmed actions and behaviors that may or may not be linked to respond in certain programmed ways to how and where the player acts and moves.
Despite the fact that virtually all video games employ some type of artificial intelligence, the enemies players encounter and must defeat still follow a rigid set of “rules” and patterns that can and do suck the fun out of an otherwise excellent game. Although I’m sure that programming and coding such an intangible factor is quite difficult, the lack of human unpredictability as of yet in video game A.I. nonetheless limits the capabilities of single-player co-op with A.I..
What does human unpredictability mean? Simply put, it’s being adaptive. The “human” element would enable A.I. to program its own movements, actions, and tactics on the fly as required to counter the player. Is such a feat possible with modern science? Not quite yet, but it can be an ideal to which more-and-more complex patterns that mimic adaptability can draw from and be inspired by.
I instead argue that humans are in and of themselves complex and advanced organic forms of artificial intelligence, minus the artificial of course (unless you like to ponder how did we get created too?).
Human adaptability is what makes player-versus-player (PvP) combat so much more dynamic and, thus, much more of a challenge than combating A.I. controlled opponents. The actions of human-controlled players are (usually) unpredictable and patternless, unless the arrangement of items and weapons in the environment that players are in doesn’t change, in which case predictability and “camping” are much more likely to occur. But I digress on a discussion on MP….
The human ability to adapt to change, while not unique amongst life on Earth, is what makes human-controlled characters extremely lethal in the right hands. This is why, with practice and, in some cases (including mine), repetition of levels and areas, the player can plow through enemies like a bowling ball through pins. But is this okay?
If a game is too easy or too patterned, is it no longer fun? This is not an easy question to answer since, excluding the problem with A.I. already discussed, the gameplay and story must be factored into the equation.
Consider, for example, the patterns of Mega Man Legends 2.
This game is basically a chain of user-inputted actions in response to a long chain of patterned attacks, movements, and objectives, as is most games at their most base core. And yet, it was, at least to me, an extremely fun game because of the story and gameplay, however repetitious it may have been.
As part of the story, character richness also played a part in the overall experience. In addition, the two core modes of storytelling in the game were cutscenes and combat, the former having no player input. Combat, however, gave the story weight and worth through player effort and, eventually, the satisfaction of victory.
Despite the desire for more and more realistic A.I. that move farther and farther away from the old Pac-Man days, developers ultimately cannot escape the need for patterns. Not to go all philosophical on you, but humans need patterns. We need a sense of normalcy and routine.
Assuming the possibility of the creation in the near future of a human-like A.I., video games could very well become impossibly-difficult. Or, more likely, they could stay the same and merely introduce a reimagined or more complex pattern-based programming.
In conclusion, we are, and (hopefully) always will be, dominant over technology in our ability to adapt dynamically, making us the almost-perfect opponent in terms of adaptability, at least in video games.
On a private island in real life, however, where a giant game reserve lies, and where a crazed man named Zaroff likes to hunt live humans, whom he deems “The Most Dangerous Game,” is where I’m gonna have to draw the line for human adaptability (See Richard Connell’s short story The Most Dangerous Game).