We all know what Christmas, and the holiday season in general, bring to the table. It’s a tradition that goes back a ways, and is tied to the two things that drive people the most: religion and money. But Jesus and credit card bills aside, the holiday needs some originality, perhaps ideas even a computer could think of all on its own. We need to go back to its roots and embrace that which got us into it in the first place. An 8-bit revolution! Oh yeah, I replaced “Christmas” with “video games” in the middle of that. Sorry. I’m not a holidays kind of guy.
But even I can get into the spirit behind A Puzzling Present, a Santa Claus-hopping computer game created almost entirely by an artificial intelligence program named ANGELINA, a doctoral project that may usher in a generation of artificial game design. London’s Michael Cook, a PhD student with the Computational Creativity Group at Imperial College, has in just two years taken ANGELINA from Atari-era graphics and gameplay to levels of, and I say this with all due respect, shitty NES and Flash games. Regardless of the output, which I’ll get to in a mini-review below, the input behind the game is where gamers and non-gamers can be amazed.