AI vs. Pro Gamers? Who wins? Back in 2016, AlphaGo made headlines in South Korea when it beat the best GO player in the world, Lee Sedol, in 4 games. From that point, it was becoming clear that AI technology advancement was further along than many experts predicted. So obviously, in Korea, there came talk of whether an AI computer can beat a top Starcraft 2 pro gamer. Korea has by far the top Starcraft 2 pro gamers in the world. Many of them feel the idea of an AI beating a top Starcraft 2 pro is decades away. However, DeepMind, the creator of AlphaGo, has come out with AlphaStar, which now beats 99.8% of all human players on StarCraft 2. In addition, back in 2018, OpenAI‘s Dota 2 AI easily beat an Esports team in back-to-back victories.
AI vs. Pro Gamers – Who Wins?
Most in the Esports industry feel that a highly advanced AI system like AlphaGo, DeepMind, or OpenAI will eventually be able to beat the best professional pro gamer in any game. Fans of Starcraft 2, Dota, or League of Legends, know that the current AI can’t beat a top-level professional. The strategies involved in the games are countless, and it is very hard to imagine a computer being able to outthink a human gamer when decisions constantly need to be changed and adapted. For example, Starcraft 2 is a fairly strategic game with depth. Therefore it is not easy for an AI program to imitate the state-of-the-art strategic plays of professional gamers.
Deepmind’s AlphaStar has beaten top players such as MaNa and TLO in Starcraft 2. It has already earned the level of GrandMaster for each race (Protoss, Zerg, and Terran). Being a GrandMaster in Starcraft 2 means you are ranked in the top 200 regionally. What is misleading about this is that AlphaStar has limits put on it by the developers on the frequency of its actions and only being able to view the screen one section at a time. With these limitations, AlphaStar is able to self-improve without human intervention. It does this by using general-purpose machine learning. It would be curious to see how great AlphaStar would be without limitations. This is one of the main advantages of AI as it will be much quicker than a human in regards to commands and clicks.
Will AI Kill the Esports Industry?
Esports is not only one of the top-rising industries in South Korea, but it is growing all around the world. It has an annual growth rate of more than 10% annually. In 2018, 6.6 million hours were consumed by Esports fans thanks to over 50,000 live channels solely dedicated to gaming. It is attracting not only fans but also corporations and investors. There are Korean pro gamers these days like Faker who are treated like professional athletes. Faker is one of the top League of Legends pro gamers in the world. However, what happens when AI starts to defeat the greatest Esports players in the world? Will fans continue to watch and support the industry?
This is very possible that Esports will need to transition into two leagues. The human champion and the AI champion. The AI champion will be comprised of gaming companies and open-source engines creating their own AI to battle other AIs. Therefore behind every AI will be a team of chess professionals, engineers, and programmers. Therefore Esports will not be a battle of brains and skills but of programming ingenuity and who has the most processing power. These will be some of the highest levels of gaming there is. Will the audience seek inferior matches played by pro gamers after seeing the games played by AI engines? If not, then the Esports industry as we know it will be dead. A new form of Esports will rise, comprised of AI software.