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Artificial Stupidity

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<Patrician|Away> what does your robot do, sam
<bovril> it collects data about the surrounding environment, then discards it and drives into walls quote #240849

In almost every video game ever made, there are some characters controlled by the Video Game A.I.. These can be categorized into one of three groups:

  • Set Pattern the computer actually makes no decisions; all enemies will make the same moves every time regardless of what the player does. Most of the enemies in (simple) shoot em ups and platform games fit this category.
  • A.I. Roulette again, the computer is not making decisions per se; it is simply choosing a move at random. At best, this seems like the character is thinking about their actions. This type is often seen in turn-based Roleplaying Games.
  • Analytical, or Responsive the computer chooses a move based on the situation. The ghosts in Pac-Man fall into this category, which in 1980 was considered impressive.

It is in this third group that Artificial Stupidity can be found. This is when the AI can select a move for its character(s), and consistently chooses ones that are completely stupid. This might be a result of Idiot Programming. If the programmers simply didn't program the AI not to make that move, then when the AI evaluates its choices, the poor move looks like the best one. (It's far more likely that The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard will be introduced to compensate for Artificial Stupidity rather than the other way around.)

On the other hand, it may be completely intentional, since Tropes Are Tools; an AI that a player can learn to exploit and outmaneuver (in moderation) will often be more satisfying to face than a Perfect Play A.I., so they're often designed to Do Well, But Not Perfect.

Artificial Stupidity is particularly visible in Role-Playing Games, be they turn-based games like the majority of the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series, or strategy-based games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea, simply because it is in these types of games that the decision-making process is the most important, and therefore, the most visible. It can potentially exist in any game involving an analytical or responsive AI, though, and the more analytical the game, the easier it is to get an AI that's, well, stupid. For instance, even good chess games can suffer from a version of this, called the "horizon effect".

Differs from A.I. Roulette because AI Roulette chooses moves randomly. Artificial Stupidity puts some "thought" in its moves, making the most obvious stupidities less likely but creating more consistent general incompetence. See also Artificial Insolence when the program responding erratically (or deliberately stupidly) is actually intended by the developers.

Suicidal Overconfidence is a specific case of this that's usually less about bad programming or making the game easier than about allowing the player to have something to do.

The Escort Mission is often a variety of this.

The opposite of Artificial Stupidity is Artificial Brilliance, where the AI makes surprisingly good decisions that convincingly appear intelligent. See The Guards Must Be Crazy for this trope as relates to stealth games. A Tactical Suicide Boss falls into this category, since if they were smart enough to only use the safe moves, every Boss Battle would be a Hopeless Boss Fight. A.I. Breaker is when bad AI allows game-breaking exploits.

Note that, for the sake of argument, this trope typically only covers situations that a player can be reasonably expected to enter over the course of normal gameplay. It's hardly fair to blame the programmers, after all, if you use a cheat device to get special weapons ahead of time and the AI has no idea what's going on.

This trope is not to be confused with Obfuscating Stupidity, though some games that computers can inherently play well will use Artificial Obfuscating Stupidity to balance the difficulty. For example, the computer can mash buttons as fast as they want, but they'll pretend to be slower at it to give the player a chance.

Not to be confused either with an Idiot Ball or at least one of its sister tropes, which is a different (though still artificial) kind of stupidity.


Non-video game examples:

    Anime And Manga 
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury for Guel's rematch with Suletta his new mobile suit, the MD-0064 Darilbalde, is equipped with an artificial intelligence that controls it for him at the behest of his father. Its reaction times are naturally impressive, but on top of the obvious blow to his pride he eventually gets so sick of it falling for obvious feints and its clear lack of situational awareness that he forcibly disables the device to fight for himself. It comes back again in episode 17 and this time proves to be way more effective, this mostly thanks to it serving its intended purpose as a support system, covering for the pilots failings when necessary while the pilot covers for its.

    Fan Works 
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged, Kirito's guild is doomed not by overconfident teammates falling for a treasure chest sitting in the middle of an otherwise-empty room, but by the fact that three of those "teammates" are actually NPCs their guild leader "recruited" by starting, and then never finishing, their quests.
    Kirito: Come on, guys, even we are not dumb enough to fall for this-
    (Gary the NPC promptly walks up to the chest and opens it)
    Kirito: ...Sachi? You set them to auto-loot, didn't you?
    Sachi: (apologetic) Yeah... I thought it would save time...
    (an alarm starts blaring and the room turns red)
    Kirito: Oh yeah, we're sprinting to our deaths in record speed!

    Films — Animated 
  • The Omnidroid in The Incredibles is mostly a case of Artificial Brilliance, showing great tactical acumen and the ability to adapt to anything used against it, but the first version seen (the v08) does have one major moment of this apparently, its programming never anticipated an enemy climbing inside the robot itself. When Bob does just that, the Omnidroid attacks itself to get at him, eventually pulling out its own core.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Spoofed with the PTSD-inflicted Hero's Duty soldier Markowski at Tapper's, who constantly walks head-on into a wall and repeats "We are humanity's last hope... our mission: destroy all Cy-Bugs," as if suffering from faulty routing and looping sound files.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Us, when the Tethered start attacking Josh and Kitty's house, Kitty calls for help by telling her home AI assistant Ophelia to call the police. Instead, Ophelia, in one of the film's most darkly humorous moments, starts playing "Fuck tha Police" by N.W.A. Her Tethered clone Dahlia slits her throat soon after.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the opening of Scream: TV Series, Nina attempts to call 911 when Ghostface is attacking her, but because her hands are wet and can't operate her phone's touch screen, she has to use the voice commands to do it. The phone mishears her request to call 911 as "call Pottery Barn".

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Glitch Techs: In-Universe, Glitch intelligence is usually related to their base programming, so they tend to act as if they're still in their game. While this is why most Glitches are dangerous, since they run by video-game logic and don't comprehend the dangerous consequences of their actions, or they see real-life creatures and objects as things from their game. It also means that they tend to still fall into the patterns that they followed in said games, like periodically exposing a weak point.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Idiot AI, Artificial Idiocy


Green Koopas never stop.

In "R64: Princess Capturing Simulator", Bowser sends green Koopas to attack Mario, only for them all to fall off a cliff.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / TooDumbToLive

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