Prom Week | SEAD Exemplars
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Prom Week


UC-Santa Cruz, Josh McCoy, Mike Treanor, Ben Samuel, Aaron Reed, Michael Mateas & Noah Wardrip-Fruin

Selected Links

Artificial Intelligence, Arts, communicate, Computer Science, educate, Electronic New Media, entertain, humanities, science
About This Project

Prom Week is an exemplar of how making scientific model playable can enhance the way people learn and how those models are studied and applied. The project consists of a game simulating the social interaction experienced by kids going to prom. Prom Week required developing novel computer science simulation techniques and artificial intelligence models, guided by arts storytelling and humanities, media studies, and social sciences approaches. Thanks to its success in engaging players and its research output, Prom Week has become a basis for DARPA’s Strategic Social Interaction Modules program, the European Union FP7 project SIREN, and other simulation games, both for education and entertainment. This project provides a new model for training that can be applied to kids and adults in a variety of skills.

From the Nominee(s):

Prom Week was the guiding application for basic research on how to make a model of social interaction playable, just as past research has made models of space and economics playable. This required developing novel computer science social simulation techniques, guided by arts storytelling and humanities media studies approaches. This work was so successful that it began to have applications in other contexts almost immediately. First, its AI system became a major component of the European Union FP7 project SIREN, aimed at creating games to help children learn strategies for addressing cross-cultural conflict. This new use required further interdisciplinary connections, especially being informed by social sciences (e.g., ethnographies of playground bullying).

The next use stemmed from combining the results of the Prom Week research with another interdisciplinary effort in computational media research. Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern are the creators of the first interactive drama, Façade, which required developing novel computer science reactive planning and multi-agent coordination techniques guided by humanities and arts theories of dramatic writing and action. These were brought together with Prom Week’s social simulation to create a project for DARPA’s Strategic Social Interaction Modules program, aimed at helping soldiers learn embodied approaches for de-escalating conflicts in the field. This project required further computer science advances, guided by the non-verbal communication knowledge of both the arts (e.g., animation and theater) and the social sciences, as well as reasoning about participant experience guided by the learning sciences.

In addition to informing other work, Prom Week was also a finalist at both of the major independent games festivals in the United States (IndieCade and the Independent Games Festival) and the winner of the “Best AI in an Independent Game” award from industry publication AiGameDev.