AI Technology in the Computer Game World
"There are two principal reasons to continue to do research on games ... First, human fascination with game playing is long-standing and pervasive. Anthropologists have catalogued popular games in almost every culture....Games intrigue us because they address important cognitive functions....The second reason...is that some difficult games remain to be won, games that people play very well but computers do not. These games clarify what our current approach lacks. They set challenges for us to meet, and they promise ample rewards."
- Susan L. Epstein, Game Playing: The Next Moves
"Games are ideal domains for exploring the capabilities of computational intelligence. The rules are fixed, the scope of the problem is constrained, and the interactions of the players are well defined. ... Games can be a microcosm of the real world..."
- Jonathan Schaeffer, A Gamut of Games
Why are games fun? In part, because they challenge our ability to think. Even simple games like Tic-Tac-Toe, Nim and Kalah, or puzzles like the Eights Puzzle, are challenging to children. More complex games like checkers, chess, bridge, and Go are difficult enough that it takes years for gifted adults to master them. Nearly all games require seeing patterns, making plans, searching combinations, judging alternative moves, and learning from experience, all being skills which are also involved in many daily tasks.
It's no surprise that Alan Turing proposed chess playing as a good project for studying computers' ability to reason. In many ways, games have provided simple proving grounds for many of AI's powerful ideas.