Bots can help fill lobbies for games to start; they can speed up matchmaking, and, well, it’s still nice to knock out an artificial competitor and get a free kill in a field of scores of human opponents. However, these seemingly harmless A.I. additions conceal a great deal more, and they have consequences for all types of gaming experiences. Moreover, bots are on the verge of risky deployment, given the developments in data collection, consumer safety, and monetization models.

The Importance of Bots in a Player’s Psychology

At first glance, matching players with bots seems to be a positive thing. Nobody wants to spend more than a couple of seconds searching for a player, whether it’s in an online shooter lobby or a handheld card battler. Combating bots can not seem to be a problem, even though it affects the rating, ranking, or other criteria over time. You might not even be conscious your opponent is a bot, depending on the game. Perhaps a single bot is your sole opposition, or maybe the game will field a large number of bots, but the point is that the developer may directly adjust the difficulty (or lack thereof) through bot prescience. Although tuning the challenge in this manner can seem innocuous at first, it becomes a tricky proposition.

Consider a game of levels, unlockable content, and monetization dependent on victory. Will you be more inclined to buy anything if you were defeated in a war game by a new titan unit? What if you lost three consecutive battles against it, and then an in-game advertisement for a titan pack played on your console with a sweet little jingle? What if the advertisement convinces you to buy the hottest new model? What if the game recognizes that you purchased the unit and matches you against bots (which it assumes you can defeat) to provide you with some easy victories?

In any case, the mind will almost certainly associate these victories with your latest purchase. And the buying will be associated with pleasant emotions, significant achievements, and positive relations. When it is “running,” any of this will occur without the consumer being aware, which could be a significant problem. When the matchmaking method prioritizes hold us playing and placing us in positions and environments where you’re more inclined to make a buy, it’s not even a competitive game. Although this is not true with any game or circumstance, these dial-turning choices may have on the gameplay is troubling.

Bots are being added to improve interaction.

Recent times have introduced us to additional bot issues along with the frightening scenario of playing against non-entities in a never-ending stream of value propositions to squirt dopamine into your brain and associate transactions with pleasant feelings. It’s reasonably expected for a game to pair you up with just bots for your first few matches; this has become absurdly common in battle royals, especially mobile battle royals. Unfortunately, this is not communicated to you. The aim is to make you feel like a god of the game during your first match. If you practice how to play or are skilled at the game is meaningless.

True, you might argue that the first few matches should be against bots to prevent the player from being destroyed in three seconds and permanently deleting the game. However, they do not inform you that you are battling bots, and players share screenshots and videos of their epic victories on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. It is an excellent opportunity for these games to generate faux-organic interest; anybody who posts an impressive win against artificial adversaries (who are programmed to be defeated) unwittingly becomes a product ambassador. It would be much easier if the games explicitly stated that you would be competing against bots. Naturally, once the bot games are over and you’ve settled in, the real tinkering will begin.

Algorithmic Pleasure

To understand how the mechanism operates, we must investigate how a game pairs you with X bots, Y characters, and Z enemies with varying ability levels. More precisely, how can it determine the most similar setting in which you can always experience the dopamine rush and thrill of victory while not allowing you to smash either game and become bored? In specific ways, the science behind these algorithms is a frightening and challenging tightrope walk. It’s about balancing your games to keep you playing, engaged, and eventually compelled to make a buy, whether decorative or practical. Game companies such as Arkadium, Poki have heavily invested in their algorithm technologies to stay ahead in the competition. Although using this data to build a match does not automatically play the music, it does arrange all the notes necessary for the melody to occur. It’s a term we used to refer to as “joy element,” but billions of data points now back it up. Is it even impossible to play a game if something has already been “worked out” in a hypothetical algorithm when you push play? That is a concern we would have to address when bots become a more significant part of multiplayer interactions, whether we are aware of them or not.