The technology we casually refer to as “artificial intelligence” is suddenly everywhere. It’s used to “create” art, dialogue and voice, text, even video games! It’s nigh impossible to escape as we enter a dystopian future in which generative technology seeks to threaten entire livelihoods (including those of Twitch streamers). But sometimes, despite how fraught the discourse around AI can be, you’ll discover something kinda cool. So, let me introduce you to MarioGPT, an artificial intelligence tool that creates classic Super Mario Bros. levels via text prompts.
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AI research began all the way back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and it’s been a gradual climb since. Today, we plug massive sets of data into advanced generative technologies so we can adapt and shape their output.This leads us to our current discourse, with tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E becoming mainstream. Simply entering a text prompt into an AI tool such as Midjourney will produce a machine-generated result culled from hundreds if not thousands of data sets. Ethical questions around ownership arise, some even leading to lawsuits around copyright infringement, but the sales pitch is that anyone can create anything with the help of artificial intelligence. Have an amazing idea for a novel but can’t write for shit? No problem! Plug your ideas into a writing AI like Jasper, then sit back and watch as technology writes your novel for you. Why struggle with creativity when you can have a robot do that instead?
The same thing can be done for video games. Created by a team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen, MarioGPT is a tool that can generate an endless supply of side-scrolling level layouts based on classic Super Mario Bros. stages. According to Sebastian Risi, an AI researcher who collaborated on the project, the trained tool uses “a fine-tuned GPT2 model” to gobble up text prompts and spit out levels that somewhat mirror what an actual human might create. Risi noted on Twitter that although MarioGPT “sometimes” fails to create levels on a given prompt, it “works well” in most other situations.
Kotaku reached out to Risi for comment.
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The researchers posted an eight-page PDF detailing MarioGPT’s methodology, noting that the tool is probably “the first text-to-level model” in existence. The goal, according to the researchers, is to “allow for the open-ended generation of an increasingly diverse range of content” to address the challenges of making procedurally generated games. There’s a GitHub for the tech, which requires Python. You’ll need some technical expertise, but considering MarioGPT is available for free, anyone can pick it up, study the tech’s underpinnings, and use it to create their own Super Mario Bros. levels. It’s like Super Mario Maker but powered by artificial intelligence.