The Evolution of AI in Gaming

Gaming development has been using Artificial Intelligence for almost half a century. Like the evolutionary chain of man, you can see it develop. It’s enabling Artificial Intelligence gaming to improve in ability, intellect and social skills over time. Artificial Intelligence and gaming have integrated for years. Together with creating more complex and challenging scenarios. It’s mainly used to imitate humanlike characteristics. Enhancing gameplay and improving user experience.

The development of behaviours in non-player characters (NPC’s) uses Game AI. It also allows NPC pathfinding, traversing various terrain, and navigating the virtual world. They can appropriately avoid collision with enemies or find allies thanks to AI.

Arcade gaming

Arcade games are one of the earliest instances of commercial gaming using stored patterns to direct enemy movement. The later inclusion of microprocessors allowed for more random movement patterns. One of the first examples of this is in iconic fixed-shooter game Space Invaders (1978). Arcade games used early AI in the form of stored patterns. These simulate random movements of aliens that were pre-programmed into the game. This AI successfully kept players hooked and slotting coins into the machines!

Pac-Man (1980) also hit the arcades bringing AI to a complex maze based game. But, forget about the hungry yellow blob – it’s all about the ghosts! This innovative AI programming allowed these colourful creatures to exhibit different personality traits. This deceived players into thinking they’re playing against 4 individual entities.


Fast forward a couple of decades to real-life simulation game The Sims (2000). The Sims allowed us to assume the role of an all-powerful being from the comfort of our swivel chairs. By using need-based formulas, different objects affected the character’s behaviours and relationships. Characteristics defined by the player at the beginning influenced The Sim’s choices. Pre-programmed variables in gameplay are also applied in sports games. Outcomes based on variables like coaching style or abilities of managers and players.

Combat gaming

Combat games use AI development for creating realistic opponents. Finite State Machines (FSMs) used in development indicate the flow of action of AI in games. As seen in games like the Tekken and Mortal Kombat Series. The FSMs prompt enemy action in every single state – to heal or attack.

The NPC can now hunt players, building on the generic attack/defend mode. They do so through audible and physical disturbances to the environment. Signifiers like footprints or a twig snapping underfoot. These complexities are present in stealth games like Metal Gear Solid 5 (2015). They have allowed for a more immersive experience of open-world gaming. More than hunters, NPC’s are survivors. The AI includes pre-set markers for them to improve health levels, reload ammo or seek cover during battle.


These techniques are important for improving gameplay. Online multiplayer gaming dominates the market. Gamers want opponents with impulsive and erratic behaviour, which they get playing online. Single-player games need to keep enhancing open-world environments to keep up. They also need to keep improving non-player characters to rival human gameplay. AI is the way to do this.

The insanely successful GTA5 (2013) pushed open-world to the next level. The most lifelike characters seen in gaming, set in a simulation of the real world – Los Santos. It’s come a long way from the bird’s-eye view shots of the original release almost two decades earlier!

Characters go about their business throughout gameplay. The interactions with them are incredibly realistic. This a huge factor behind the controversy surrounding the game. Watch out Uber – these AI taxi drivers can get you from A to B with no input to pathfinding from the player. It’s not exactly David Attenborough but you can even watch a live feed of the modded game of an AI deer living life in the world of San Andreas. It’s not just AI characters though. The in-game website updates throughout the game. You’ll also notice characters having real conversations. They talk about their backstories with other AI on phone calls.

Using Data

Data Mining has helped developers automate difficulty levels. This creates more interactive and challenging worlds. Professor Arend Hintze recently created an AI that adapts the video game to the player’s behaviour, matching their ability. The AI increases as the gamer engages in more play, feeding the system with more data.

Big Data in gaming is capturing information on how and when we game like never before. Tracking data points is allowing developers to tailor gaming experiences to individuals. This helps to increase revenue from trends in spending habits. With these methods, expect to see more enhanced player experiences unlocked.

Augmented Reality

Thinking about the future of gaming, it’s hard not to mention the latest craze – augmented reality hit PokémonGo. With over 30million active users in less than a month of its release, it’s popularity could signify what’s to come. If you can catch a Jigglypuff on your way to work now, imagine what else is possible. Defeating Dr. Neo Cortex in your office. Building on your home Sim’s style. Or even living out a digital zombie apocalypse through your device. Virtual Reality is also set to play a part in the development of open-world gaming. This will allow a full simulation of alternate realities to play in.

The future of gaming is a much-debated subject. There’s a variety of people backing different corners. Whichever comes out on top, the gaming industry will continue to evolve rapidly. It always has. And, AI and Big Data are set to lead gaming into new, uncharted territories.


evolution of artificial intelligence in gaming

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