Storytelling with Games and AI Suffering

AI and philosophy of mind in general is one of my topics of interest, even though I’m not writing about in public much. Before I dropped out of my MA in Philosophy, I was working on a thesis based on this issue. Now I just read and think about it in a much less academic setting.

This is why when I was listening to Ted Chiang’s conversation with Ezra Klein, I was quite taken by his perspective on AI and suffering. In many ways, it was really close to my perspective on the ethical side of the problem. I want to write more about my ideas on this, but today I want to talk about something else.

Even though I know and follow a lot about video games, I’m quite picky when it comes to devoting my time. Most of the time, the thing I look at first is storytelling and world building. I want games I play to tell me a story, a good one. In a sense, I think about video games similar to literature

This is why Destiny 2 is one of my favorite games and devoted hundreds of hours to it in the last 2 years or so. It’s fun to play, but also it has a really deep story and a complex world, which many games simply lacks. Their writers team consider so many complex relationships, serious issues and adds that into the game in a really elegant way.

One of those stories arrived with their Beyond Light extension in November. This extension added a lot of depth and new characters to the story but also a beautiful story about the AI in the game’s world. I’ll try to summarize with minimum spoilers, but you can probably find videos and more online, if you don’t have time to play.

In the game, there are entities called Exos, which are simply conscious robots with human memories, created by someone called Clovis Bray —mad scientist of the Destiny world. One of the main storylines was about learning more about the creation of Exos and Clovis Bray’s story. In the quest about this story, your character travels around Jupiter’s moon Europa and finds discarded Exos from old experiments and takes their memories and listen those recordings. In those recordings you listen what those Exos were going through in that experiment period and what kind of issues they were dealing with. If we return to our starting point, listen how they were suffering.

Every recording tells you about a different issue they deal with. Like the one you listen an Exo who —because of the memories uploaded— craves about specific food but can’t taste because of his mechanical body and this drives him crazy. He suffers because he wants something that’s not possible for him. And it’s told in a really moving way. Not gonna lie, some of them really hit me hard.

Things like this makes me love Destiny 2 because they really know how to use the tools video games have to tell a beautiful story. And this is why I always look for the story in a video game I play because I know there are many possibilities in the technology to tell deep and important stories. You can talk about AI all you want but the experience of listening a memory of an AI while you’re right next to their corpse is something much more effective.


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