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Playing Games with Bots

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发表于 4-20-2022 14:25:23 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
Sarah E Needleman, Friend or Bot? Phony Gamers Leave Players Feeling Betrayed; Biggest mobile games disguise bots to pass as just another online player. Wall Street Journal, Apr 20, 2022, at page A1.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/fri ... etrayed-11650377760

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Like others starved for human contact, Benjamin Arnet and Maria T. met online.

They found each other through the word game “Words with Friends,” an old-time Scrabble-like online competition that in the lonely days of lockdown drew new players looking to socialize and maybe fall in love. The game, more than a decade old, enjoyed something of a revival in the Covid-19 era, connecting word nerds around the globe.

Mr. Arnet, a 24-year-old janitor in rural Kansas, said he and Maria played together every day for about a year. They were evenly matched. Maria took her turns quickly 9without much pondering the next move] and never quit midway through a contest. Mr Arnet sent messages over the game’s chat function, hoping to get to know her a little better, but Maria never responded. He figured she didn’t know how to use the chat function or she was rii shy to answer.

Then Mr. Arnet learned Maria wasn’t being straight with him. An online post revealed a list of usernames that allegedly belonged not to people but to software programs known as bots. Among the suspects: Maria T.

“I was kind of heartbroken,” Mr Arnet said. “I thought it was an innocent old lady.”

Despite the game’s cozy name, bots are introduced to “Words with Friends” in 2019 as as a way to make sure players could always find a suitable opponent, according to a spokesman for its publisher. Zynga. Omc. Many players said they had no clue they’d been facing off ersatz rivals until word started spreading on Reddit.

As more bots are seemingly unmasked, players add usernames to the list. Only Zynga knows for sure who is real or who isn’t but won’t tell.

It turns out that seven of the 10 most-played mobile games employ bots, according to app-analytics firm Sensor Tower Inc. At the start of 2016, it was one out of 10, the firm said.

“Words with Friends” draws a particular social crowd, and many players felt betrayed after learning they have been spending their free time with phonies. “I feel hollow,” One player lamented on a Reddit thread about the bots. “Thinking I have been playing against another human somewhere else on this planet...35 games later I find out it’s a bot."  

Donna Martinez, a 60-something “Words with Friends” fan and sewage worker in Salt Lake City, said she has [sic] become suspicious of opponents with glamorous photos. Bots, she said, are “always good-looking.”

Whenever she believes she is playing a bot, she blocks the suspect after finishing the match. “The bot won’t ever answer you,” Ms Martinez said, “I like to chat with folks.”

Since Zynga doesn’t identify who is a bot, some players have become fixated on figuring out if their rivals are mortal or mechanical.

Frank Young, a novelist and a creative writing teacher in Oak Grove, Ore., plays spot-the-bot whenever he is paired with a new opponent. His strategy is to give kudos to his rivals via chat after they make a high-scoring move. If he doesn’t get a response, he asks, “Are you a robot or a human being?”

Silence is a dead giveaway, said Mr. Young, 58. He recently concluded that five or so of his 15 regular opponents are guided by artificial intelligence. “That was a very 21st-century moment,” he said.

Paul Bettner, of McKinney, Texas, created “Words with Friends” with his brother and sold it to Zyngain 2010 for $53 million. Game bots are a clever solution for players who have exhausted their list of real-life opponents, said Mr Bettner, 44.

He thinks people ought to get used to them. “We're heading into a world where the definition of a friend is going to include artificial intelligence,” he said.

Some “Words with Friends” devotees enjoy going head-to-head with artificial opponents because, for one thing, bots are easy to beat, according to Marc Perry, a 43-year-old stay-at-home dad in Fall River, Mass.

Another distinction, Mr Perry said: You play a high-scoring word and some people accuse you of cheating. With bots, he said, “you don’t have to worry about that.”

The flip side is that bots will never be your friend [sic], said Allison Linnnell, a recently retired small-business owner in southern California. She complained that bots are easy-to-beat shills employed to inflate the number of “Words with Friends” players.

Ms. Linnell, 59, doesn't appreciate the easy win. “I don’t want people to think I’m a super good player, because I’m not,” she said.

At the start of a recent match, a new opponent asked Ms. Linnell if she was a bot. While she understood the suspicion, she didn’t appreciate the blunt approach.

Established etiquette is to give a compliment and see if your opponent responds, she said. “I felt a little offended.”

One thing about bots, Mr. Perry said, they aren’t nearly as rude as people can be.
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