All blogs / 15 Active AI Game Competitions to Check Out in 2021 (Ongoing & Upcoming)
September 10, 2021 • Joy Zhang • Resources • 8 minutes
AI game competitions are also known as AI programming competitions or bot programming competitions. They're different from your average data science competition. In an AI game competition, you aren't given a data set. Instead, you get a game or simulation and your job is to program an agent that can compete in it (sometimes head-to-head against other players' agents).
They can be a great place to practice programming, algorithms, and AI/ML. The competitions vary widely in their difficulty, prizes, languages available, and feasible strategies. To help you find the right one, I've compiled a list of ongoing and upcoming AI game competitions to check out below.
September 2021 update: Updated competition details for Coder One, yare.io, and Battlesnake.
You've likely heard of Kaggle. They're the most popular platform for hosting data science competitions. But they're also home to a range of simulation playgrounds such as ConnectX, Hungry Geese, and the resource management game, Halite by Two Sigma. Players submit agents that compete on a live leaderboard, and prizes include Kaggle merchandise and ranking points for your Kaggle profile.
Kaggle is a great place to start if you're new to AI game competitions since they provide tutorials and free GPUs for training.
AWS DeepRacer is a 3D racing simulator designed to help developers get started with reinforcement learning. Using their prebuilt model, you'll be able to focus on designing a reward function and tuning hyperparameters.
It's free to get started with 10 hours of training on AWS. But if you plan on seriously competing you'll need to pay for training, evaluating, and storing your model on AWS. Your reward for getting serious will be to rise up the ongoing AWS DeepRacer league. From the FAQ section of their website:
Developers will start in the Open Division of the league. Each month the top 10% in the Open Division will advance to the Pro Division the following month. The top 16 racers at the end of the monthly Pro Division race qualify for the Pro Finale, where they will race live to determine the winners for that month. The top 10 in the Pro Finale receive AWS DeepRacer Evo devices, while the top 3 will be eligible to receive an expenses-paid trip to advance to compete in the AWS DeepRacer Championship Cup at re:Invent.
Aside from their virtual racing tracks, there is also an option to purchase their DeepRacer Evo (a 1/18th scale autonomous racing car) for USD399 to try out your RL model on physical tracks.
Bomberland is our own multi-agent AI competition based on the classic console game, Bomberman. It's a challenging 1v1 environment requiring planning, real-time decision making, and navigating both adversarial and cooperative play.
Participants are free to use any language of choice. Starter kits are provided in Python and TypeScript. The competition runs year-round with an active leaderboard, prizes, and live streams.
Terminal is a two-player tower defense game organized by Correlation One. In Terminal, you take turns building structures and mobile units to take down your opponent.
Terminal features regular seasons (currently on Season 8), which boast ludicrous prize pools (USD200,000+) and end with a finale tournament stream.
Players can use Python, Java, or Rust to build their agents.
CodinGame is a training platform for programmers and features a range of game-based exercises, in-built IDE, and support for multiple languages.
They host seasonal contests which last for about 2 weeks each. Each contest features a new game, and a ranking system to measure your progress from Wood → Legend. Previous prizes have included CodinGame T-shirts, monitors & keyboards, and Amazon gift cards.
If you're planning on entering, you'll be in good company as each contest attracts thousands of developers, with some of them actively streaming their participation.
Screeps is an online RTS PvP game in which you control a colony to harvest resources, build units, conquer territory, and trade with other colonies. Unlike others on the list, Screeps isn't really a "competition" but does involve competing against other players.
The original Screeps game involves players competing in a single persistent open world. They recently announced a new game called 'Screeps: Arena' which takes place in a match-based arena environment instead.
AICrowd is a competition platform (similar to Kaggle) featuring data science challenges. They occasionally partner with big companies such as FAIR and OpenAI to run open competitions tackling reinforcement learning research challenges.
Some of the active competitions include:
Lux AI is a new competition currently being hosted on Kaggle until mid-December 2021.
It features a 1v1 RTS game with a day/night cycle in which you control a team of units that can gather resources, research, and build cities. The goal is to manage your resources effectively in order to maintain the largest city.
Battlecode is MIT's longest-running programming competition. The theme changes each year, but generally centers around a turn-based strategy game. Participants write an AI player in Java controlling a robot army to take down their opponent.
The competition is open to anyone to participate. Although, only teams of full-time students (international students as well as MIT students) are eligible for tournament prizes (2021's tournament featured a USD15,000 prize pool). The competition is held in a multi-stage tournament format over a one-month period.
The 2021 competition is already over but will return in January 2022.
Each competition sees about ~2,000 participants each year, with prizes that range from merchandise, MacBook and cash (up to 250,000 rubles).
Update: Their sandbox mode is open now for practise, but the competition has been postponed to February 2022.
Battlesnake is a multiplayer Snake game (similar to Kaggle's Hungry Geese). Your goal is to survive the longest - either by eliminating others or trying not to starve.
Battlesnake runs seasonal tournament leagues lasting a couple of months each and prizes include gift cards, customizations, and merchandise.
The IEEE Conference on Games (CoG) is an annual event held for researchers in the general domain of AI in games. It's aimed at helping researchers generate new papers and research in game AI, but also features a competition track with AI games that are open to the public.
Here you'll find a range of AI games being used in research, such as Dota 2, StarCraft, Angry Birds, Space Invaders and many more. Some competitions will also feature cash prizes in the range of USD500.
CoG 2021 ended in August this year, but the competitions will likely return in the first half of 2022.
AI Coliseum is an annual competition in Java held around July. Each year features a new theme, usually centered around resource management and real-time strategy.
The competition is split into two parts: a sprint and a final tournament, with accompanying streams. Previous competitions have lasted ~3 weeks with ~EUR1000 in total prizes to be won.
CodeCup is held annually and organized by the Dutch National Olympiad in Informatics. The 2021 competition has ended, but CodeCup will likely return in early 2022.
Each year features a new game. Previous years included puzzle and board games such as five-in-a-row and tic-tac-toe variants. Supported languages are Pascal, C, C++, Java, Python, or Haskell.
It features an aesthetic space theme, in which you control units that attack, defend, and harvest energy from stars to create more units.
Their first tournament for 1 ETH runs in September, with a qualification round ending August 24.
Here are some additional websites to check out that don't necessarily feature competitions:
I've tried to make this a comprehensive list of all active and upcoming AI game competitions. As new competitions come up, I'll aim to keep this list up-to-date.
Whichever competition you end up choosing — good luck!