As growth mounts, Esports sits on cusp of Artificial Intelligence-powered revolution

As in the world of professional chess, AI can be used for both analytics as well as practice by professionals in Esports.

Anand Krishnaswamy June 23, 2020 19:02:46 IST
As growth mounts, Esports sits on cusp of Artificial Intelligence-powered revolution

Esports industry is growing at an impressive speed. As the industry expands, so will the needs of the industry which is expected to be worth more than $1.5 billion by 2023.

As growth mounts Esports sits on cusp of Artificial Intelligencepowered revolution

Representational image.

As the Esports industry grows, certain areas of concern are also being noticed. Two of the major concerns that corporations investing in the industry need to find solutions for are retaining members of the video game community as well as developing fresh talents for the professional circuits.

These concerns can probably be addressed by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and that could well add to the growing might of Esports in the future.

The issue of keeping a community alive for a video game or an Esport is not new. It has, however, become even more important in current times as new Esports are emerging far more frequently and players are spoilt for choice. This makes it very easy for players who are not fully satisfied with their specific Esport to shift loyalties.

This is a story that has been observed even among professionals. The richest professional Esports player in the world Johan 'N0tail' Sundstein is one such example. He started his career as one of the youngest professional players for ‘Heroes of Newerth’ (HONE) at the age of 15 but shifted to playing Dota 2 due to the reduced activity in the professional HONE circuits.

Another famous example of a well-known player changing his Esport is Lim 'hyhy' Han Yong. 'Hyhy' was featured as one of the three players in the ‘Free to Play’ documentary, which covered the first-ever TI (The International) for Dota 2. However, this recognition and fame did not stop 'hyhy' from choosing to retire from professional Dota 2 and make a move into League of Legends (LoL) as he felt the competitive environment in the latter would offer him greater opportunities.

With well-known professionals willing to change it is no surprise that casual players and amateurs show an even greater tendency to shift to a new Esport.

Reasons for such shifts include staleness or even a toxic environment within the game. An Esport becomes stale when the developers fail to add new content or events on a regular basis, or when the competitive environment begins to decline.

The issue of toxicity is much larger and harder to deal with. This comes from the fact that many gamers who make up the player base for an Esport are part of a crowd that can sometimes be referred to as ‘keyboard warriors’ – people who make aggressive or abusive posts on the internet while concealing their true identity. Many people in this group sometimes let loose their frustrations and rage at other people in the community.

As the number of players exhibiting this behaviour increases in a game, the environment becomes more toxic. Players who don’t believe in such acts begin to migrate to another game and this destroys the community. Also, newer players are often discouraged from joining the community by the players who have quit.

According to Business Insider, the solution to this issue may lie in the use of AI, which can help improve the experience.

This can be achieved in a variety of ways: The first is it helps identify these ‘toxic’ individuals who show a tendency to lash out at their teammates and isolates them from the players who don’t show these tendencies.

The second is it can be used to offer more detailed information for players about their in-game performance and hence help them understand the areas to focus on for improvement.

Taking it a step further, AI can also help detect when a normally peaceful player begins to exhibit behavioural patterns usually seen in ‘toxic’ individuals. This is a common issue in most Esports, as players often experience a phenomenon known as ‘tilting’. This phenomenon is one in which the players’ decision making and rationality are impaired due to excessive stress from a poor result or experience.

In the professional world of Esports, this is taken advantage of by certain payers who keep finding new and creative methods to frustrate their opponents and hence make them ‘tilt’ – the equivalent of trash-talking or sledging from the world of sports. AI can be used to detect the early signs in a player, when they begin to show signs of entering this state, and warn them. The players could, over time, improve their ‘mental fortitude’ to such situations, which in turn would improve the psychological part of their game as well as making the community more peaceful.

The world of professional Esports would also benefit from the introduction of AI. As the world of Esports grows exponentially and new games emerge regularly, it is often difficult for players and teams to find a coach who is experienced in the specific Esport.

By using tools such ‘SenpAI’ developed by FalconAI, a player can improve himself or herself without a coach. SenpAI is currently only meant for Dota 2 players. Its true value shows in the fact that it is able to suggest new playstyles and strategies to players based on their game data and hence helps them improve their versatility in the game.

DeepMind, which is based in London and owned by Google (now a part of Alphabet Inc.) is helping players device new ways to beat older games.

Another example of AI becoming a powerful training partner for a player is OpenAI, a company founded by Elon Musk which focuses on research into AI.

This company in 2017 unveiled OpenAI during ‘The International 7’ as an ‘AI’ that could compete against players in the 1v1 solo mid adaptation of Dota 2. On its debut, it beat all present professional Dota 2 players.

The AI showed an incredible ability to consistently strategise and outplay professional players who were otherwise considered unbeatable. This development was followed by ‘OpenAI Five’, a more advanced form of the AI, which was now able to play the standard 5v5 game of Dota 2. This AI showed itself as superior to many professional teams. Some of the teams that beat the AI were forced to rely on unorthodox and otherwise ridiculous and unusable strategies.

This is a throwback to the days when human chess players would use deceptive methods to confuse the Super Computers playing against them. Initially, the computers won, but as time went along, human players found a way to reverse the trend, albeit temporarily. AI has also been used for chess analyses.

Going forward, the world of Esports will see increasing usage of AI for a variety of roles. AI will help fill the vacuum that is created by the rapid expansion of the industry.

As in the world of professional chess, AI can be used for both analytics as well as practice by professionals. Once the current generation of players retire and move into coaching or similar supportive roles, they will further advocate the benefits of AI.

This in turn will prompt an increase in its usage across the industry.

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