When the Terminators arrive to kill us all, we have one hope. That hope is, apparently, that we live in World 1-3 of Super Mario Bros., because according to the not-entirely-serious research of Tom Murphy, robots really can’t handle platforms very well. But they can learn to play video games.
Murphy has a highly amusing video detailing the incredibly stupid way his program started playing video games… but, over time, it learns to be a pretty solid Mario player:
Especially impressive is that the AI, once it stops randomly mashing buttons and starts actually playing, learns how to use the game’s programming against it: Once it figures out that Mario is invincible whenever he has downward momentum, it exploits that in a way no human player can.
Just as tellingly, though, it can’t play like a real human player. For example, we all know where the level warp is hidden in World 1-2, but the AI never thinks of even trying to jump up and explore the ceiling. It’s so obsessed with points (which was set to be one of its main goals) that it never notices.
This is interesting for more than just the sight of a computer learning to play Mario; in the future it may come in handy for automated bug testing and other ideas that will make games better. And, you know, Terminator defense. Time to start practicing your goomba stomps.