2021-ongoing | Exhibition, Identity, Product, Research
Games we’ll never play is a collection of recreational activities for computers, robots and AIs. It is a playroom for the age of intelligent machines, designed with Nicoletta Gomboli as This is not a Duo.
The series of speculative objects and installations investigates how some classic games could become aberrant, boring or frustrating, if recalibrated to be played by very skilled machines, deaf to the needs of us human players.
What if AI decided to take part in human tabletop games by rewriting their mechanics? Would we still be able to have fun, win or even just understand these new rules? The project’s aim is to highlight some of our human limitations, tics and fears by using supposedly harmless playful devices.
Games we’ll never play has been on display during Milano Design Week 2022 at BASE Milano, as part of the international exhibition We Will Design. Play and learn more on neverplay.it
Games like Guess Who? are based on our ability to distinguish differences and similarities in faces and on the risk strategy in asking the right questions.
How would we play such game if the faces were incredibly similar, all look-alike to each other? The ones that appear in this game were generated in multiple sets via a StyleGAN neural network, trained to render human faces. The genetic traits of each face in a set have been calibrated to be unique, yet extremely similar to the others in that specific set.
The visual impact of each set of siblings is disarming for our perceptive tools: we grasp the uniqueness of each face but we are stunned by the homogeneity of the group.
What then would be the most suitable questions to skim the squad? Treating categories such as gender in a binary way or generalizing traits such as skin color and age could become useless to identify and distinguish individuals with such nuanced phenotypes.
However, if the players were two AIs equipped with facial recognition capabilities, they would not experience any additional difficulties in dealing with this version of the game. To them there is no “male” or “female”, just a numeric value for some ‹gender› parameter.
This game aims to question the mental categories that we often adopt in observing diversity, taking them to the extreme where they become pointless.
With the pandemic, many places have begun to offer the possibility of accessing the menu exclusively via QR codes placed on the table, in the form of cards or stickers. The ability to interpret them is taken for granted, so owners often don’t bother to add a human-intelligible alphanumeric URL. More generally, in the coming years, an increasing number of signs and information in our cities will be aimed at “smart” readers, vehicles and devices, not at human inhabitants.
Without technological aids, this information is impossible for the human eye to decipher. Such poor design choices create new unnecessary forms of dependence on technology in exploring the world around us.
Quick Response is a fully functional deck of French-suited playing cards. The peculiarity of these cards is that their value is expressed through a unique QR code printed on each card’s face. The distinction between red and black codes is the only clue that is given to human players.
Using this deck, any game becomes extremely tedious and requires constant scans to recognize the cards in play and those in hand. This would also be a major disadvantage for human players in speedy games, such as Pig or Donkey.
La Settimana Algoritmica (Algorithmic Weekly) takes inspiration from La Settimana Enigmistica, a famous Italian crossword and puzzle magazine, published weekly since 1932. The puzzles contained in this volume, however, are not intended for human solvers, but for thinking machines.
So wordplays, crosswords and charades are replaced with more interesting and challenging puzzles for artificial intelligences: CAPTCHAs, autonomous machine moral dilemmas, cryptographic enigmas.
These pages are designed to cheer up the spirit of tired and overworked computers by combining puzzle games with lighter pastimes, trivia and cartoons produced by fellow GANs, GPTs and algorithms.