Alive: A Case Study of the Design of an AI Conversation Simulator


  • Eric Walsh Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute



This article offers a case study of a game designed to encourage its players to reflect on the implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by considering the impact that advancements in AI might have on them personally or on the world more broadly. Alive is a conversation simulator in the vein of the Lifeline series of games, where the player responds to messages from a newly created AI in a manner simulating the rhythm of a conversation vis phone texts. Player decisions directly influence how the AI develops over time and the values it chooses to adopt. Throughout the narrative, the game explores a variety of topics relevant to the creation of AI, such as the potential differences between how an AI and a human would view the world, the capacity of an AI to evolve or change over time, and the risks inherent in the creation of a self-aware AI. In this article, I describe the development of a working prototype of my game, made freely available to accompany this piece. After first establishing the basic principles of conversation simulators based on an analysis of existing examples, I chronicle the design decisions I made and offer my rationale for them. I also discuss the difficulties I encountered in covering this topic and propose what I see as helpful design takeaways for creating other games in a similar vein. It is my hope that this article provides practical tools to scholars and designers interested in both creating and interrogating complex topics such as AI through games.

Author Biography

Eric Walsh, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow

Department of Communication and Media




How to Cite

Walsh, E. (2020) “Alive: A Case Study of the Design of an AI Conversation Simulator”, Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture, 10(1), pp. 161–181. doi: 10.7557/23.6177.