For day 2 I expected to spend the whole day in the Games for Change Summit. That was what brought me to the GDC page in the first page and made me think that it was time to go to GDC (at least for part of it.)
However, at the end of yesterday I attended a session in the AI Summit – Turing Tantrums: AI Developers Rant!. I loved the name, and for some reason I thought it would be interesting. It turns out it was quite interesting. As I listened to the rants I was stuck by “Hey AI is cool – and I’d like to do this.”
As it turned out I started out the day at the AI Summit attending Beyond Eliza: Constructing Socially Engaging AI. I have to admit this was influenced by a co-worker who had mentioned that someone from Little Text people, which had been acquired by Linden Lab was speaking and maybe I should catch his talk. Of course, it also was influence by the title – and the recollection of the “simple guard” that a friend made in SL, that had people standing there and arguing with it for hours (or at least a good half hour.)
As I listened to the talk I was struck by how much what they were doing reminded me of my work with Software Agents for my dissertation. Of course, now that I think of it more that makes total sense because I was modeling behavior, simulating attacks and responses, which I guess is AI. The talks themselves were on modeling social interactions – the first two sets of speakers were exploring complex relational (relationship/social) models, and then Stephane Bura looked at scaling and how “smart” interactions can be created in a scalable way. I thought what he presented was particularly interesting and I will have to follow up with him later.
After lunch I was back in the AI Summit for Less A More I: Using Psychology in Game AI. This was fascinating pair of talks about how our brains create meaning from what we see or experience and how we can leverage that in games to create the feel of intelligence with very little.
The first part of the talk by Dave Mark looked at visual responses, for an example check out this Heider-Simmel demonstration. Meaning, intention, story, and possibly gender all are drawn out by the mind when viewing an animation of triangles, lines and a circle. (This also reminded me of some the lessons from: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art) How our brains create meaning is pretty fascinating.
The second part was presented by Brian Schwab looked at heuristics and how they influence emotion and behavior. If you have read books on behavior and influencing people, even some of the Heath Brother books (Made to Stick, Switch) you will have read something on the models (even if they were not posed as heuristics in those books.)
As you can see with my side references a lot of what I’ve read in my personal learning seems to be from the same kind of analysis and exploration of behavior of at least part of the field of AI.
The rest of the sessions were in the Games for Change Summit. They were good sessions, good points on how depth of information can create depth of play – and that fun and informative/teaching can augment each other. However, if the goal is education or a particular change the place you start the design of the game may be different – for example the content may have to drive the design rather than starting with the core mechanic of the game.
I also learned that I first played Dungeons and Dragons rather close to when they were created, and got to enjoy a bit of “oh I remember that” as Ian Livingston spoke of his history in games. (I must confess, it was not until well after college that I really learned to learn in depth and pay attention to things like who wrote or created what.)
All in all a great day. By the end I was feeling my exhaustion from more (and early) travel in the past two weeks than I’ve had in the past two years, so I just headed off to Sabra for some kosher food and headed home…after buying a Ferrari ;), and a box load of books. The rest of the week will be attending expo and exploring the non-session events.