Gamification and games have been used and studied in a variety of applications related to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). Game design is an art, science, a craft, or any combination of the three. While human beings are very capable of designing everyday games, it becomes a different story if a more complex game needs to be thought of. The design process is especially complex for AI-enabled games that attempt to be meaningful about a particular aspect of reality. To give the needed experience and the specific knowledge and skills for designing these AI-enabled games, the “AI in Game Design and Development” Workshop was held at Alfaisal University on April 4, 2023.

Designing games, in particular digital ones, requires the consideration of a variety of aspects, such as the aesthetics, game mechanics and the technology platforms. When speaking of intelligent, or AI-driven, game design we consider these aspects in the framework of intelligent engines embedded in the game environment and/or the game’s characters. In this workshop, participants explored the “concepts” of the game that can be enhanced with AI. These are somewhat abstract notions of what the rules of the game are, how these rules establish a meaningful message, and how they are related to reality. The workshop’s content was curated to cover the fundamentals of AI in game developments and use cases of applied AI in different genres of games.

Researchers at Alfaisal University’s Game Innovation Center are keen to expand the Game Innovation Lab’s research. The developers and scholars at Alfaisal University focus on independent research into AI-enabled and serious gaming techniques. ‘What works and what doesn’t? For example, do people learn better if the game is designed in such a way that players are bound to make mistakes? Insufficient research has been done into this yet.

Students and faculty in Alfaisal’s Game Innovation Center develop serious games and design AI-enabled games for research purposes, but also offer advice about the design and use of serious games in education, applied health, and engineering training programs. The researchers design, create or redesign serious games with collaborators from a broad range of applied domains. The team, consisting of designers, researchers, and developers, creates “serious games” in collaboration with educators and researchers from Alfaisal University and beyond. The gaming concepts range from simple game mechanics to complex (digital) simulation games. Products are often applied in training, teaching, conducting research and policy advice.

The “AI in Games” workshops are offered by Alfaisal University’s Game Innovation Center as part of a design or innovation course or as a standalone workshop for 20-30 people per session. The team often adapts the subject of the session to fit various themes. The “AI in Games” Workshop aims to form a community, discuss theoretical and practical considerations, and promote the development of research projects focused on AI-enabled Games.

The workshop presenters were Dr. Areej Al-Wabil, the Director of Alfaisal’s AI Research Center and Eng. Hoda Elsayed, the Director of Alfaisal’s Game Innovation Center. The workshop was also moderated by Ms. Yasmin Mussa, the coordinator of Alfaisal’s Dimensions business accelerator. These technical workshops are often held in collaboration with Alfaisal’s AI research center to create the opportunities for interested researchers to form a common understanding, develop methods and procedures, and establish a roadmap for future research in AI-enabled game design and AI-driven Gaming.

In the “AI in Games” Workshop Series, participants master the craft of game design so that they can create that elusive combination of challenge, competition, and interaction that players seek. This “AI in Game Design and Development” workshop began with an examination of the fundamental elements of game design and machine learning; and addresses the broad question of “How can games and artificial intelligence (AI) improve our understanding of the world?” and “How might we use AI to enhance the gamer’s user experience”? Participants in the workshop included students from local universities as well as game designers and developers from local game studios who are part of the Dimensions business accelerator program at Alfaisal University who recently joined the accelerator as part of the awards granted to winning teams of the Gamers 8 Gameathon which was held in the 2022 summer gaming season.

Reflections from participants highlighted how the workshop demystified the creative process with clear and accessible analysis of the formal and dramatic systems of AI-enabled game design. Using examples of popular games, illustrations of design techniques, and refined frameworks of AI models in game design to strengthen the participants’ understanding of how game systems function and give them the skills and tools necessary to create compelling and engaging AI-enabled games. The workshop concluded with thanking the participants and organizers along with distribution of certificates for all participants. The Office of Research, Innovation and Graduate Studies issued certificates acknowledging the participation of attendees i the workshop.