Future Funding

Here’s the big news: I’ve been awarded a Research Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering, and starting in November 2018 I’ll be joining Queen Mary University in London to start five years of research into automated game design, as part of their Game AI Research Group! If you’d like to hear some specific things I hope to get up to, read on – otherwise, I’m looking forward to joining Queen Mary and starting a new phase of my research!

Over the last year or so I’ve been reworking ANGELINA from the ground up – you might’ve seen us at Rezzed recently, or saw me talking at ICCC about the new system and how it works. The plan was to build a system I could work on for a much longer time, and also to build a system that could work in a lot of different ways – as a designer, as a critic, as a collaborator or teacher. The new ANGELINA is less like a single system and more like a toolbox of different systems that will hopefully be able to do many different things – not just pump out games.

Over the next five years I’ll be working with ANGELINA to look at how the ideas behind it might impact people who make games as a job, as a hobby, or as an artform (or all three). This means not just pushing forward with making ANGELINA the best game designer I can, but also trying to understand how people really feel about this technology, how it might shape their creative process in the future, and what the best possible future we can build with it is. I’m hoping to also push back against the idea that automation is inevitable by looking for ways that AI can integrate into society healthily, helping more people access technology, helping experts achieve their wildest ideas, and crucially ensuring that people remain a part of creative processes and don’t feel (and aren’t made) obsolete.

I have too many things planned to go into agonising detail here, but we’re going to start by getting ANGELINA streaming regularly, making and releasing games, and hopefully building a community of people who play and discuss ANGELINA’s games, who can help us over the coming years of research. You can start now by following us on itch.io!

Amazingly, the Royal Academy of Engineering were also really enthusiastic about PROCJAM, and some of my research funding can be used to continue to run the event and help more people learn about generative and creative software, and try to make it themselves. This won’t come into effect this year, but should help us with some of our costs in the coming years. I’m also hoping we’ll be back to hosting in-person talks days too, which I know many of you have missed! I have some ideas for new venues, to keep the event moving around, so look out for that in the coming years.

On a personal note, this fellowship also represents security and safety. Academic careers are full of uncertainty – postdoctoral researchers are usually moving between short-term contracts, and often need to move physically to find the right job. On top of this, there’s the pressure of preparing your CV for the future, which often leads to a lot of overtime, crunch and burnout. I’ve been pretty lucky so far, thanks in a large part to the support and advice of Simon Colton, my PhD supervisor and current boss. But even with all that help and luck, it still sucks to not know what the future holds. Thanks to this fellowship I have five years of reliable funding with a total focus on research, which really takes a lot of pressure off me, and should set up some exciting future things too.

That’s all for now! This week I’ll be writing up some notes on the OpenAI vs Humans DOTA 2 exhibition match that happened over the weekend, no DOTA 2 knowledge required! And don’t forget you can submit to Seeds, our PROCJAM zine, to be in this year’s issue! Thanks for reading, and for all the support I’ve received that’s gotten me to this point. I can’t wait to see what’s next!