Social characters for computer games

Bill Tomlinson (ACE (Arts Computation Engineering) Program, University of California, Irvine, 430A Computer Science Building, Irvine, CA 92697‐3425, USA)

Interactive Technology and Smart Education

ISSN: 1741-5659

Publication date: 31 May 2005


Many current video games feature virtual worlds inhabited by autonomous 3D animated characters. These characters often fall short in their ability to participate in social interactions with each other or with people. Increasing the social capabilities of game characters could increase the potential of games as a platform for social learning. This article presents advances in the area of social autonomous character design. Specifically, a computational model of social relationship formation is described. This model formed the basis for a game entitled “AlphaWolf” that allows people to play the role of newborn pups in a pack of virtual wolves, helping the pups to find their place in the social order of the pack. This article offers the results from a 32‐subject user study that assessed the social relationship model, showing that it effectively represents the core elements of social relationships in a way that is perceivable by people. Additionally, this article proposes a game that will allow parents, teachers and children to experiment with computational social behavior through social virtual characters. This research contributes to the development of games for social learning by offering a set of viable algorithms for computational characters to form social relationships, and describing a project that could utilize this model to enable children to learn social skills by interacting with game characters.



Tomlinson, B. (2005), "Social characters for computer games", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 101-115.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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