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The Esoteric Beat: AI Culture, NES Music, In-Game Books

The Esoteric Beat: AI Culture, NES Music, In-Game Books

July 26, 2005 | By Jim Rossignol

July 26, 2005 | By Jim Rossignol
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Welcome to 'The Esoteric Beat', the news report that provides new and unusual ways to think about game and culture. This week's column looks at AI societies, NES music fun, and signing books in a place without pens.

- The New Scientist is carrying a report into an unusual experiment in artificial intelligence being conducted by a number of European universities. The project intends to use simple AI in an online environment to simulate the evolutionary development of a society, in a manner clearly inspired by MMO games. Unlike games though, the idea is to give AI agents a simple set of rules and abilities and then watch them interact, working out how societies might spawn from simple laws. However, Edward Castronova of Indiana University told New Scientist. "We have real human societies that grow up on their own within computer-generated fantasy worlds. The most sensible research project, it seems to me, would be to study these societies directly, rather than conjure artificial ones." Mr Castronova perhaps misses out on the idea that only by studying emergent AI in action are we ever going to be able to make use of the AI itself. These studies are, after all, in addition to, and not instead of studying human MMO cultures. Perhaps, if academic research like this provides insight for practical programming applications, we'll one day see online worlds in which humans interact with convincingly evolving AI cultures, making the experience a lot less stiff and inflexible than online worlds are today.

- Elsewhere in the science of games, reBlog posts about the culture of extracting Nintendo ROM data, this time not laying out all the graphics in hipper-than-thou pixel mosaics, but deleting everything except the sound, leaving the bleeping epics of various NES games as sound files for your listening pleasure... Pleasure?! Oh God, listening to this awful honking makes you realize just how far game audio has come, thank the heavens for 24-bit sound! If anything, this should make gamers genuinely appreciate that sound guy who sits so unassumingly in the corner of modern game studios. He's worth every penny of his $200 Sennheiser headphones, if only to save us from these tortured beeps of old...

- Finally, Sunday night was filled with noises of a more scribbly kind, as celebrity blogger Cory Doctorow performed the world's first in-game book signing in online world Second Life. The game's scripting allows Doctorow to sign digital copies of his book, Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town, with a specially-made virtual stamp. Elsewhere in Second Life, notorious writer and journalist Ian 'Always Black' Shanahan revealed that he is now building an in-game Library for Second Life, presumably so that he has somewhere to put that copy of Cory's book.

[Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his progressive games journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times, to name but a few.]

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