AI Might Enslave Humankind One Day, but It Can’t Yet Create Good Objectives for a Mean Goose

Part of Untitled Goose Game’s massive appeal (it’s still #1 on the Switch eShop) has to be its simple, mischievous objectives. Developers House House never ask players to do something beyond the abilities of a determined, occasionally cruel goose, but everything item you cross off your list is sure to create a headache for one of the village residents once they’ve realized they’ve been duped by the goose. This nuance in design and language is easy for humans to pick up on, but a recent exploration by writer and scientist Janelle Shane shows that artificial intelligence needs some nudging to match humanity’s goose game.

For an entry at her blog “AI Weirdness,” Shane dumped the first eight objectives from Untitled Goose Game into a neural network that’s tasked with completing snippets of text. The network, a limited version OpenAI’s GPT-2, was trained on gigabytes of text from the internet earlier this year. Training took place before the release of Untitled Goose Game, meaning the chances of the network having seen much in the way of goose to-do lists are slim.

The objectives that GPT-2 spit out range from utterly nonsensical to incredibly amusing, but in between those two poles is a whole lot of boring. While “Paint the Chicken with the Golden Hourglass” could probably be at home in a bizarre Scribblenauts spin-off and “Have a Dance Party” would be a great for a co-op version of Untitled Goose Game, the inclusion of “Leave the Groundskeeper Alone” and “Keep the Groundskeeper Happy” reveal just how ill-equipped the network is to grasp what it means to be a very bad goose.

Shane tells USgamer that she first saw Untitled Goose Game at 2018’s XOXO festival in Portland, Oregon, where local publishers Panic Inc. brought an early demo build. “Even then,” says Shane, “they had the animation perfect on that goose. The way its head and body moved when it walked and cornered[…] I could just watch that goose walk around all day.”

The nonsense goose objectives are right at home on Shane’s blog, where she regularly writes spotlights attempts at humor from AI that don’t quite hit the mark. A neural network-generated list of April Fool’s pranks (like “Serve up a glass of juice in the fridge!”) that Shane posted last year is great if you get a kick out of the Untitled Goose Game post. Shane is releasing an AI Weirdness book (“You Look Like a Thing and I Love You”) this November.

For the record, Shane’s favorite AI-generated goose objective might be the most enigmatic of them all: “Cookie-coated fun.”

It’s wonderful fun seeing people putting their own spin on Untitled Goose Game, from donning a goose costume controller to challenging themselves to dump everything they can grab from the village into a single hole. It looks like humans are perfectly capable of coming up with their own honk-tastic chaos—AI assistance not required.

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