WTF is a GPTathlon – and what does it tell us about marketing?

by Manolis Perrakis, Innovation Director, XYZ

As with many technological breakthroughs in their relative infancy, artificial intelligence polarises opinion among marketers. Some are inspired by its capabilities and potential, while others perceive it as a professional threat or parlour trick. 

In particular, there’s been widespread speculation about how large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT could revolutionise everything, everywhere, following recent demonstrations of their capabilities. But real value can be found in human and machine working in synergy: playing to their complementary strengths.

Talking in code

Generative AI can produce large volumes of human-sounding content almost instantly, and can make connections between seemingly unrelated topics, developing novel ideas that bear the hallmarks of divergent thinking. But the technology still needs humans to provide directives and guide it with territories to explore. So at the moment, maximising its potential is still very much a collaborative process.

For marketers, one of the biggest benefits of ChatGPT is that it can speak coding languages. It can act as a liaison between marketer and machine, vastly reducing the technical development skills required to create immersive experiences for consumers. As John Maeda, VP of Design and AI at Microsoft puts it, “( the future) speaking human really well will matter more than speaking machine”.

To stress test that, among other things, we recently held a GPTathlon at We Are Social. We brought together contestants with wide-ranging backgrounds across three global offices to create 80s style games, pushing the boundaries of using AI for development without any code input.

Why? To further our understanding of our gaming clients' businesses and the transformation their products are going through – along with exploring how these technologies can augment our creative capabilities.

GPTathlon : A fun way to push boundaries and explore the power of AI

The rules for our GPTathlon itself were very simple:

  • Each team had 2-3 hours to create an 80s inspired game

  • No code was allowed to be altered from that provided by ChatGPT

  • Only ChatGPT was allowed to be used for fixing bugs

  • The code had to be published on an online code editor

…and we were pleasantly surprised by the results. GPTathlon allowed us to push boundaries and explore the potential of using natural language as a means for creating complex interactive content with the help of AI. It was a delightful display of the capabilities of ChatGPT.

But perhaps the most important takeaway from GPTathlon was an experiment that went beyond gamification. We used games as the subject of our exploration but our learnings extend beyond games. 

By fostering a collaborative environment, we not only harnessed the potential of AI, but also embraced the opportunity to learn, grow, and elevate our collective understanding of the dynamic intersection between technology and creativity.

Dive into immersion

It’s exciting to consider what’s next for marketers and the brands they represent in the context of this developing capability. For instance, the next generation of consumers will come from an audience that has grown up both participating in, and contributing to, immersive environments via online platforms such as Roblox and Fortnite.

In fact, Roblox is currently in the process of experimenting with LLMs to make the development process easier and more accessible for creators. If successful, this will both democratise game development further, produce a new generation of creators – ones that don’t just remix but also create original immersive content.  

But LLMs have the potential to help brands take this kind of experiential development to the next level through features including…

Hallucinations : A double-edged sword to take advantage of

AI can make new or unusual outcomes based on the inputs it receives – but it doesn’t know when it’s doing it. These outcomes are known as hallucinations. While they’re often viewed as undesirable behaviour or even a bug, hallucinations allow us to explore multiple possibilities and perspectives, resulting in serendipitous or novel ideas.

Importantly, it takes a human to interpret hallucinations in order for them to spark a new idea, potentially taking a project in a new and exciting direction. As creative professionals, marketers are perfectly placed to capitalise on this.

Multilayered brand mascots : Why will this change the game?

The power of LLMs also has the potential to revolutionise the significance of NPCs (non-player characters) in games. They can move beyond mere scripted entities and become dynamic personas with unique characters and background stories, reacting and responding to player interactions in a manner distinct to an individual’s gameplay choices. 

Developer Art From The Machine recently built a Skyrim mod that utilises ChatGPT along with various other AI models to give NPCs awareness of in-game events and the ability to converse with players with   natural sounding voices.  

If adopted by brands, this breakthrough could also allow marketers to offer consumers a truly personalised journey within immersive experiences – encountering brand mascots and characters that reflect their individuality and respond in a manner distinct to their gameplay choices. 

These are just some examples of the vast potential that AI has to offer marketers when creating immersive brand experiences. There are likely many twists and turns ahead as the technology develops. But what’s certain is that the worlds of gaming development and immersive storytelling will be opened up to those with the (very human) skills required to maximise their power.

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