Here’s my interview with Prof. Graham Kendall, editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games, which is changing its name to IEEE Transactions on Games in 2018. Graham is Provost and CEO of The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Nottingham. He’s a Director of MyResearch Sdn Bhd, Crops for the Future Sdn Bhd, and Nottingham Green Technologies Sdn Bhd. He’s also a Fellow of the British Computer Society (FBCS) and a Fellow of the Operational Research Society (FORS). Graham has published over 230 peer-reviewed papers and serves as an Associate Editor of 10 other journals. I’ve known Graham for almost 20 years as a colleague in the field of evolutionary computation, and we both share a passion for games. I recently had the opportunity to ask Graham some questions about the IEEE’s journal on games, as well as his own technical interests.
DF: The IEEE recently changed the name the IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games to simply the IEEE Transactions on Games, along with a new simpler scope. How does this new positioning help the journal going forward?
GK: The journal is now in its ninth year and has been very successful in that we attract high-quality papers. We have an active, yet manageable publication queue. The one thing that’s proven challenging has been growing the journal over time. We felt this is because the scope is probably too narrow. After some consulting and much discussion, we decided to change the name to IEEE Transactions on Games. We’ve also changed the scope of the journal so that it’s much wider:
“The IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON GAMES publishes original high-quality articles covering scientific, technical, and engineering aspects of games.”
We’re still keen to publish papers that look at computational intelligence and artificial intelligence but we now have an interest in games of all sorts. This might include serious games, games as learning tools, sensors for game playing, and so forth.
DF: What about purely mathematical games?
GK: We’re less interested in purely mathematical games. We’ve published papers that look at — for example — computational intelligence/AI methodologies for games such as the prisoner’s dilemma, but a purely mathematical analysis is likely not to be of interest. There are more appropriate journals for these papers.
DF: How did you get interested in games?
GK: It started with playing cards games with the family, and playing text adventure games when the first PCs appeared.
DF: Like Zork?
GK: I do remember playing Zork but I cut my teeth on Colossal Cave Adventure.
DF: I’m pretty sure my Baker Street Detective text game for the Commodore 64 in 1986 escaped you. [Laughing]
GK: Can’t say I recall that, but I’m sure that it would have been one of the best!
DF: Well, maybe not. But I did get a little lucky and have it picked up by a company called Data Command that sold it to school systems as a logic game for kids.
GK: Actually, I wrote my own as well.
DF: That’s great.
GK: I never released it but I was fascinated by the way that you could describe the world as a set of rooms and how little coding it took to navigate around the world you had created. I was particularly pleased when I implemented my first maze as I knew how frustrating it was when you got stuck in one. I was also fascinated by the way you played the game just using two words (“Go North,” “Get Axe,” “Open Door”). This was also quite easy to code, rather than having to parse complete sentences and make sense of what the player was saying. Recently, I looked again at text adventure games, for nostalgic reasons, and was disappointed at how there are now tools that can easily generate text adventures. It’s not surprising, but it took away some of the mystique that they first held for me.
DF: Fortunately, there are lots of other games that still pose significant challenges.
GK: Yes, exactly. Later in life I grew an interest in casino games. If you combine all that with my interest in evolutionary computation, you can see the result in some of the papers that I’ve published. This includes evolving strategies for games such as poker, blackjack, and checkers, investigating how ant algorithms can carry out the Knight’s Tour on a chess board and how strategies can be involved for general game playing using hyper-heuristics.
DF: What does the future hold for games?
GK: Gaming in general is already a huge sector. Lots of people play games of all sorts and lots of people study them and design them. I think augmented reality, which has not been a major part of the journal’s content so far will play a more important role over the next few years. Many people now play games on smaller devices (such as phones or tablets) as this will be of increasing interest. It’s not only the game’s content that’s important but also what the devices are able to add to the experience. For example, phones come with GPS, which can track movement. This adds a different dimension to what’s possible on a desktop computer. There will also be interest in the business models that underpin these games. Are the current business models sufficient to support the new innovations that are emerging? Of course, to try and predict the future is fraught with danger. The recent viral take up of Pokemon Go is a good example. It’s phone-based, uses GPS and augmented reality, and took the whole world by storm. There will be many more of these in the future. Part of our role is to try and be the innovators and help create these opportunities, rather than be the followers.
DF: There’s been a lot of attention recently on deep learning and adversarial games. Do you think this is a trend that will continue?
GK: I think there’s been a lot of attention in these areas but, actually, only to those who had an interest previously. I have spoken to a lot of people about AlphaGo. This was a major breakthrough, yet the general public is not necessarily aware of this significant achievement. It was the same with Deep Blue, back in 1997. I was lecturing to some computer science undergraduates recently and was surprised (I’m not sure why, as they were only being born around this time!) when many had not heard of Deep Blue.
DF: That’s interesting. For a while Deep Blue was very well known, and we just passed the 20-year anniversary of the famous final win over Garry Kasparov (May 11, 1997). I recall Deep Blue even made a cameo appearance on the cartoon The Simpsons.
GK: Fame is often fleeting. So, I think one of the challenges for the scientific community is to get the message out about the exciting work that we’re doing. It’s beholden on everybody to do this, but the journal editors and publishers also have a major role in making the media aware of significant advances, in a way that the general public can understand. The areas that we work in should be easy to promote, as you cannot look at the media without AI being mentioned. It may not be what we recognize as AI, but it’s a term that the public is used to hearing so we should be knocking on an open door. Similarly, with games, many people play games so we’re not trying to tell them about something that they have no knowledge about or there is some basic learning before they even understand. So, I agree that the areas addressed by the journal have generated a lot of interest but there’s a lot more that we can do.
DF: Much of your initial work in computational intelligence (as I recall it) involved scheduling problems. Is there a direction connection to games there, or how did you make the transition to becoming the editor-in-chief of IEEE Trans. Games?
GK: My Ph.D. was very much in operations research but utilizing evolutionary computation (EC). This methodology, or rather methodologies, can be used for almost any application and it was not a big step to start looking at EC for games. It started slowly, via undergraduate projects and then moved onto Ph.D. students. I suppose the big breakthrough was when you invited Simon Lucas and me to run the first IEEE Symposium on Computational Intelligence in Games in 2005. This symposium was initially planned to be held every two years but it’s become an annual conference (as it’s now called) and over 10 years later the conference is still going strong. This conference was the catalyst for the IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games journal, which Simon worked tirelessly to establish and publish the first issue in 2009. I was really pleased that Simon was asked to be the first editor-in-chief and he did a fantastic job in establishing the journal over its first six years. (That’s the maximum you can serve as an editor-in-chief on an IEEE journal.) I was honored to be invited to be the second editor-in-chief. Simon has been a tough act to follow but the change of name/scope has focused the mind to building on the foundations he laid.
DF: Did you move away from operations research?
GK: My work is still operations research focused, but games are of great interest to me and I publish regularly in this domain. I would also like to think that I’ve managed to bridge the gap between games and operations research on several occasions and this will be something I strive to do in the future.
DF: What do you enjoy most in your role as editor of IEEE Trans. Games?
GK: I think it’s seeing the wide variety of topics that come across your desk. Many papers get rejected but even those are enjoyable as they do have something in there, even though they did not ultimately get over the bar to be published in the journal. Also, and I admit a bit unexpectedly, I have really enjoyed engaging with the IEEE community. Part of the role of an editor-in-chief is to attend various IEEE meetings. These have been really enjoyable and I have learnt a lot from the people I‘ve met, both IEEE staff and other volunteers.
To contact Graham Kendall, email: Graham.Kendall@nottingham.edu.my, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Jalan Broga, 43500 Semenyih, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia, and on Twitter @TCIAIG and @Graham_Kendall
To contact David Fogel, email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his news page at www.davidfogel.com
© David Fogel, 2017
Links for David’s other interviews:
Prof. Pablo Estevez, President of the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society, University of Chile: http://www.davidfogel.com/interview-prof-pablo-estevez-president-ieee-computational-intelligence-society/
Prof. Kalyanmoy Deb, Dept. Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michigan State University: http://www.davidfogel.com/interview-prof-kalyanmoy-deb-dept-electrical-computer-engineering-michigan-state-university-mi-usa/
Dr. Joseph Lizier, Chair, 2017 IEEE ALIFE Symposium: http://www.davidfogel.com/interview-dr-joseph-lizier-chair-2017-ieee-alife-symposium/
Prof. Dipankar Dasgupta, Chair, 2017 IEEE Symp. Computational Intelligence in Cybersecurity: http://www.davidfogel.com/2017-ieee-symposium-series-computational-intelligence-interview-prof-dipankar-dasgupta/
Prof. Xin Yao, Chair, 2017 IEEE Symp. Computational Intelligence and Ensemble Learning: http://www.davidfogel.com/interview-with-prof-xin-yao-of-university-of-birmingham/
Prof. Ponnuthurai Suganthan, Chair, 2017 IEEE Swarm Intelligence Symposium: http://www.davidfogel.com/2017-ieee-symposium-series-on-computational-intelligence-interview-with-prof-ponnuthurai-suganthan/
Prof. Vincenzo Loia, Chair, 2017 IEEE Symp. Computational Intelligence and Intelligent Agents: http://www.davidfogel.com/2017-ieee-symposium-series-on-computational-intelligence-interview-with-prof-vincenzo-loia/
Prof. Leonid Perlovsky, Chair, 2017 IEEE Symp. Computational Intelligence in Cognitive Algorithms, Mind, and Brain: http://www.davidfogel.com/2017-ieee-symposium-series-on-computational-intelligence-interview-with-prof-leonid-perlovsky/