Darpa enlists AI teams to hack video games like StarCraft II for Pentagon War Games


DARPA enlists top Artificial Intelligence companies to hack popular video games like StarCraft II, DeepRTS, Command: Modern Operations and TORCS for Pentagon’s war games

DARPA or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is an advanced-technology branch of the U.S. Department of Defense. The purpose of the agency is to try out new technologies and make them operationally ready for use in the U.S. army and further. DARPA was created after the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957 and continuously works with Pentagon.

Now it is looking to the gaming industry for different ways to leverage artificial intelligence in Pentagon war games. DARPA has announced that it has chosen nine teams for its Gamebreaker program, which basically asks teams to hack commercial video games using AI, so their methods may be applied to improve Pentagon war games.

My hope is that we might then apply those AI algorithms to create imbalance in DoD simulated war games used to train warfighters for real-world battle


The Gamebreaker program involves top artificial intelligence firms for hacking video games like StarCraft II, so the Pentagon can advance its war game scenarios. Each of the A.I. firms selected by DARPA is a top researcher in the field and will help DARPA in gamebreaking. The list of games that DARPA wants different artificial intelligence firms to hack are as follows:

  • Aurora Flight Sciences and MIT – StarCraft II and Google Research Football
  • BAE, UC Santa Barbara, and AIMdyn – StarCraft II and the AFRL Strategem Wargame
  • Blue Wave AI Labs – SpringRTS: 1944 and OpenRA
  • EpiSci – miniRTS and StarCraft II
  • Heron Systems – DeepRTS and StarCraft II
  • Lockheed-Martin and Cycorp – Multi-agent Particle Environment and SpringRTS: 1944
  • Northrop-Grumman, Hazard Software, and Matrix Games – Command: Modern Operations and TORCS
  • Purdue University – microRTS and StarCraft II
  • Radiance Technologies and BreakAway Games – FreeCiv and Zero-K

Gamebreaker program wants the AI researchers to hack the games so that the technology “can be extended beyond a single video game and could potentially be applied to advanced DoD wargaming scenarios,” according to the program announcement. The common objective for the Gamebreaker teams is to

  • Quantitatively assess game balance
  • Identify underlying parameters that significantly contribute to balance
  • Explore new capabilities, tactics, and rule modifications that are most destabilizing to the game

In other words, they’re looking to see if they can apply AI to “hack” or “break” the games, as the program name implies.

If we can figure out a generic method to assess and then manipulate balance in commercial video games, my hope is that we might then apply those AI algorithms to create imbalance in DoD simulated war games used to train warfighters for real-world battle.

Gamebreaker program manager Lt. Col. Dan “Animal” Javorsek

Once the gamebreakers achieve their target, it will be incorporated in the Pentagon war games projecting real-life threat scenarios for the U.S. army. This will help the U.S. army to incorporate artificial intelligence into elements of war like never before. This is bound to raise a hue and cry among human rights crusaders and anti-war groups like it did when the Pentagon awarded the military artificial intelligence contract to Microsoft a few years ago.


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