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This article was published on April 26, 2021

Sony’s working on an AI that can play games for you. Here’s a better idea

AI should help us play games, but not play them for us

Sony’s working on an AI that can play games for you. Here’s a better idea

Sony’s AI division recently published a patent for an AI system that learns to mimic a player’s style. Give a person a video game and they’ll play it, teach an AI to play it for them and… what’s the point?

Actually, there might be something to the idea. But it’s probably not what Sony intends to do.

Per the patent:

The method includes generating a user game play profile of the user by adjusting the default game play style based on the plurality of game plays, wherein the user game play profile incudes a user game play style customized to the user.

The method includes controlling an instance of a first gaming application based on the user game play style of the user game play profile.

It’s worth mentioning that the existence of a patent doesn’t mean the company or person who published it intends to make the product or service it describes. It’s doubtful Sony’s planning to launch a PS5 add-on that’ll let you hang out and eat cereal while your AI-doppleganger secretly pwns fools in Call of Duty at your behest.

Not to be overly reductive, but eventually all the players in every online game would just be AI. We could just let Sony stream that straight from its servers onto YouTube and save the cost of purchasing our own hardware and software.

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It makes more sense to view this is as a tool for developers or, possibly, an accessibility option. It can be difficult for devs to understand exactly what choices players will make or which features will produce undesired results. As games become more complex, it can be nigh impossible for developers to track down game-breaking bugs until a product’s been stress tested by the general public.

A paradigm where an AI, trained to imitate specific human gamers, could test out a new game before it hits market might help prevent future launch-day disasters.

However, as far as player-facing applications go, there is an interesting use-case for AI that Sony’s algorithms could potentially explore. This is purely conjecture, but if the team’s going to go through all the trouble of training up a self-learning AI system to ape human players, why not skip the game play part and just build a total gaming profile manager.

I don’t need an AI to play my games, but it’d be nice if it could create my characters, manage my logins, and carry over my preferences from one yearly iteration to the next. It’s hit or miss whether a given PC game will have an auto-detect for graphics options and with several different launch platforms ranging from Xbox Game Pass for PC to the Epic Games launcher, it can be obnoxious trying to manage all my logins and keep all of my platforms and games patched.

On console, it’s not much better. I create the same character for every sports game that comes out year after year. I long for the days when developers toyed with the idea of letting your character and save state transfer from one iteration to the next, but it’d be much easier to have an AI on my end handling all of those things for me so I can just load up and play. The AI, given the ability to create a profile and execute commands on the system, should be able to provide a bespoke, luxury gaming experience tailor-made just for me.

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