I just came across this article which digs through the actual code of the original NES version of Tetris and then creates an AI to play it.
The rise of the online always-on videogame opens a new world of stat tracking. The recent changes is this area are well beyond simple high score boards or achievements/trophies. For example, consider the article “You Are Being Watched” from a recent issue of the Official Xbox Magazine. The article details the datamining that Bungie is doing for Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST, that Criterion is doing for Burnout Paradise, and Valve is doing for Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead.
All of these companies are gathering data that shows them how their games are really being played. One usage for this data is to potentially make improvements and bug fixes. In the case of Bungie, players can actually log onto bungie.net and see their own stats and own personal heat maps for the matches they have played. Valve shares some of the overall data, and has recently started adding personalized data (for Steam players only).
For the personalized data, it would be interesting to see some numbers for how many players actually review their stats and whether it has an impact on their playing.
- Kotaku’s regular coverage of the fact that Nintendo makes Wii playtime data available
- Major Nelson’s regular updates on Xbox Live game popularity
- a Slashdot item about some neural network software being used to monitor games and assist players.
While I’m clearing out the videogame datamining links…
Scientific American’s online edition has an article touching on the study I previously blogged in which videogames were observed to improve vision. The article is a nice contrast to much of the game journalism coverage of the research, and gives me an opportunity to briefly revisit this topic.
This article has a nice point calling out the lack of good research in this area (I’m looking at you, Brain Age.):
To date, much of the claims around this rapidly growing area of technology-supported medical interventions are insufficiently supported by scientific data.
(I have since found a study examining the effect of videogames upon memory and thinking skills in the elderly – using Boom Blox.)
Out of a number of online mentions of this research that I have seen, this article comes closest to referencing Steven Johnson‘s book “Everything Bad Is Good For You”. Perhaps I have just missed the articles that make the logical connection.
It also amuses me to see a study showing that playing Call Of Duty 2 or Unreal Tournament 2004 is in any measurable sense “better” than playing The Sims 2.
In other news, it seems that Dr. Richard Haier is still researching with Tetris. Dr. Haier did some of the original brain research with Tetris back in 1992 (two publications: one in Intelligence, another in Brain Research). In 2009, Dr. Haier did some new research involving Tetris while acting as a consultant to Blue Planet Software. MSNBC has a brief interview with Dr. Haier. Wired has another writeup on the research. (I would be remiss if I didn’t include a link to a certain someone declaring themselves as a Gameboy Tetris purist: “Tetris on the Gameboy…only.”)
I’ll close with another link I had lying around: scientists studying mice brains by using Quake 2.
Update, March 2010: Another bit of research on Tetris and PTSD.
Julian Togelius and Sergey Karakovskiy have organized a competition to create an agent (or AI) that plays the video game Super Mario Bros. – or, more accurately, Infinite Mario Bros. a tribute game featuring random level generation.
The advantage of using Infinite Mario Bros. is the random level generation – which can let the agent learn more generalized playing tactics rather than tactics that are tailored to a static set of levels as in Ms. Pac-Man or Pitfall.
I look forward to seeing the results of the competition, and hope to see source code published as well.