I saw a video of a robot playing Settlers of Catan recently and it made me think. I enjoy playing board games on my phone against AI opponents, but how would that change if the AI was in front of you? What motivates AI in the game? Winning? The word “winning” is a full word, and means lots of things to lots of folks. It made me think of the broader implications of a robot gamer: why do I play games?
I play games for the diversion. “Diversion” comes from the Latin divertere which means “to turn aside or away.” So, when I play games, I play to veer away from the normal life. “The normal life” isn’t a bad thing. I live a happy and easy life. Even with all my comforts, a break is necessary, and I use games to fill that time. I don’t play to win. I don’t play to become good. I play to play. I also enjoy the time spent with family and friends. I also play for the intellectual challenge and exercise. There is something about learning a complex game and playing it well. When “playing it well” starts to mix with “playing it better,” I begin to lose interest. I’m alway striving to be better at my job, my marriage, and my family. I don’t want to be better at games. I only want to play them.
That is a human thing. A robot can’t play to “just play.” I suppose you could program a computer to make random plays to progress the game rather than win. Its purpose is still derived from its program. I can’t “just play.”
There are many who can’t define a game outside of the need to win it. In that way, I see a continuum. One extreme is the “just play” motivation. The other is the “must win.” Most folks land along that path.
Are there other motivations? Is this too linear? I’d love to hear your thoughts.