Artificial “Intelligence” is an experiment in interactivity between computer generated avatars and their environment. The experiment was conducted in a video game called The Sims 4 – A game in which the player creates a character called a ‘Sim’, and controls every aspect of the Sim’s life. These include everything from love interests, career aspirations, fears, dress styles, even down to the skeletal structure and the list goes on. The player, if they choose to, could essentially act as God. Whilst the player may choose to control their Sims, within this experiment, four random avatars from unknown, individual players from all around the world (2 male, 2 female) were put into a house with no doors and left to their own free will for an in-game period of approximately 20 hours – much like the voyeuristic reality television show, Big Brother. The avatars and their surroundings did not receive any input or manipulation by the user and all events were allowed to play out no matter the situation.
This is done without prior knowledge to the traits, values and programming held within the avatars, thus creating an interesting element of serendipity by way of not knowing how they would interact with each other and their environment. Strangely enough, it turned into a bit of a soap opera, where relationships developed, interests were shown and even fetishes were exhibited.
Research & Inspiration
Video games have always been an integral part of my upbringing and have acted as both artistic inspiration and an escape. Over the last 13 weeks of MEDA102, we have explored computational media from a perspective of creating rule based art & instructions – focusing on aesthetics, rather than the crunching of numbers that goes on in the background. It would make sense then, to incorporate both elements of computational media into a final project that explores rules, restrictions but most of all, serendipity, in a medium that holds endless possibilities and is an art form in itself. The idea to use The Sims as a platform was there from the inception of the project. I have always been interested in artificial intelligence, and what better way to explore this in a game where AI are at the core of the experience. The idea to use The Sims as the platform for the experiment came from a tutorial in week 11 (I think) where Etienne spoke of the uncanny valley. Here AI, robotics, animations etc seem almost so human, yet not quite perfect, that humans are unsettled in its likeness. This can be seen in MANY video games and nearly all examples of modern pop culture. Star Wars provides us with an excellent current example of this in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, where Carrie Fisher is depicted as a younger version of herself. It was this concept of the uncanny, mixed with the serendipity provided by AI that I wanted to explore.
Initially, the concept was to place 1 individual Sim in a room (10m x 10m) and provide them with the bare necessities to live (or otherwise) without influence from the player. This would occur four times with 3 other Sims and the results would be recorded throughout the experiment. Whilst interesting on paper, once executed, the Sim would stand in the middle of the room and flick through their phone for hours. This hardly proved to be interesting viewing in the least. So, the idea came about to place four Sims, created by unknown players from all around the world in a house simultaneously and observe the interactions between each other and that of the environment. Whilst an unexpected outcome, I had essentially recreated Big Brother. Complete strangers in a house, left to themselves to create an experience. To me, this proved to be attention capturing viewing as we all have, to some degree, a voyeuristic side – be it curiosity that keeps us entertained, of the suspense of the unknown, it is a guilty pleasure. This, combined with the less than perfect Artificial Intelligence and ‘free will’ given to them created an experiment turned soap opera that surprised even me, somebody that has been playing video games and interacting with AI for well over 24 years.
What Happened & Final Observations
The Sims were placed in a house with the bare basics. Being complete strangers, they went on their way doing their own thing. Soon, interactions started to occur between the three more social Sims (Female with red jacket, Female with blue hair and Male with glasses). The fourth Sim (Male with white shirt), a seemingly introverted loner appeared to like to hang around bathrooms and take joy in listening to other go by their ‘business’ (Time stamp 1.58, 3.11 and 3.52). This Sim also doesn’t seem to engage in direct communication with others, but would rather linger in the background (a little creepy). Whilst the female with the blue jacket began to form a stronger relationship with the male with the glasses, an incident occurred at dinner (Time stamp 6.20) that ended up putting the two female sims in direct competition for the attention of the male with the glasses. This confrontation resulted in the female with the blue hair being ostracised by the group and become forced to confide in the strange male with the white shirt.
Throughout the experiment, the previously unknown traits in which the Sims held became slightly more obvious. The blue haired female was jealous and didn’t like mess, the female with the red jacket enjoyed video games and was cunning, the male with the white shirt was a loner, socially awkward and slightly unnerving, whilst the second male with the glasses enjoyed reading books, watching movies and socialising with others.
It is also well worth watching the video with Closed Captions – as a computer attempting to interpenetrate a computer generated language yields some interesting results.