It's been an emotional week in the realm of game AI as the world watched the historic five-game showdown between legendary Go world champion Lee Sedol and Google DeepMind's famed deep learning AI AlphaGo. All five games were held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul, South Korea, and as events played out, millions around the world became increasingly captivated. Anticipation for the match began growing in January, when Google's UK-based AI group DeepMind, led by CEO Demis Hassabis, announced their computer algorithm AlphaGo defeated three-time European Go champion Fan Hui 5 games to 0--a victory some experts didn't expect a computer to achieve for a decade. At the end of a Google blog post announcing the win was the promise of a best-of-five face-off between AlphaGo and 18-time international Go champion Lee Sedol, a match equivalent to IBM's Deep Blue defeat of Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997. Notably, Go is inherently more complex than chess and AlphaGo, at least in part, trained itself to play the game.
AlphaGo, a largely self-taught Go-playing AI, last night won the fifth and final game in a match held in Seoul, South Korea, against that country's Lee Sedol. Sedol is one of the greatest modern players of the ancient Chinese game. The final score was 4 games to 1. Thus falls the last and computationally hardest game that programmers have taken as a test of machine intelligence. Chess, AI's original touchstone, fell to the machines 19 years ago, but Go had been expected to last for many years to come. The sweeping victory means far more than the US 1 million prize, which Google's London-based acquisition, DeepMind, says it will give to charity.
Reporters Without Borders has found a radical new platform for distributing banned journalism in some of the world's most repressive countries: Minecraft. The advocacy group has opened a new virtual space on a dedicated server for the popular video game called'The Uncensored Library,' accessible to any of Minecraft's 145 million monthly players. Inspired by the neoclassical architecture of ancient Rome and Greece, the library will be filled with books containing the text of news stories that have been censored in their countries of origin. To begin with, the library will be stocked with stories from five countries that rank near the bottom of Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index, including Egypt, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam. The stories will be published in English and whichever language they were originally written in.
Eímear Noone got into composing and conducting video game music by accident. One day, while studying music at Trinity College Dublin, a fourth-year student came to the bar she was drinking in with members of the college chapel choir and offered them a few quid to help with the orchestration on a project of his. "I have a vivid memory of sitting on a studio floor somewhere in Dublin writing choral parts with my pals and then singing them," she says. "Six months later my brother calls me in a complete tizzy and says, 'Did you work on Metal Gear Solid?' I was like, 'No!' He says, 'Well, I'm looking at your name on the screen credits right now.' And sure enough, the session she had contributed to for beer money was the soundtrack to Hideo Kojima's blockbusting adventure game. "Years later I was at the Bird's Nest in Beijing at the Olympic Stadium conducting this very piece of music," she says. Noone is now a hugely successful film and video game composer, having contributed scores for directors such as Gus Van Sant and Joe Dante, and for games, World of Warcraft, Diablo III and Hearthstone. In November, she's presenting her second series of High Score, Classic FM's agenda-setting programme dedicated to game music. Underappreciated outside of game fandom for years, the genre is now huge business with dedicated orchestras playing sold-out global concert tours. And Noone is a passionate advocate – very keen to explore and explain the unique elements of the art form. There is, of course, a foundational similarity between game and film scores – they are both composed to accompany and accentuate screened action. But while a film score needs to accompany a two-hour linear experience with specific cues and events, video game music must be there for many hours of play. Most open-word action adventures, the likes of Assassin's Creed Origins, Witcher 3 and Final Fantasy XV, offer over 100 hours of narrative, but many players will spend much longer exploring. Music scores also have two different roles in games: they accompany the non-interactive cinematic sequences that set up the story and occur throughout a game – sort of like short animated movie sequences; and they provide background music while you play. "Cinematic are scored very similarly to a movie or an animated film.
World of Warcraft allows players to dive into a vast fantasy realm populated with players from around the world. Together they battle to survive alongside dragons, trolls and warlocks - even on Christmas Day. Video games have long proved a formidable force in capturing the hearts, imaginations and wallets of people all over the world. The most immersive gaming experience, according to its fans, is World of Warcraft and in Azeroth, where the game is set, even Christmas Day is celebrated with turkey feasts, snowball fights and presents under a tree. In a time where many of us spend more time online, what does it mean to celebrate 25 December in a virtual world?