Game AI PhD in Computer Science

Applications for this opportunity are now closed, but enquiries for other opportunities in this area can still be sent to Dr Sam Devlin.

Recent work has scaled up game playing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to world champion performances in Go and generalised applicability to a wide range of early digital-games. However, the focus of most work in this area has been on using AI to beat (or outperform) human players and not on the betterment of humans. It is our view that AI should augment (not automate) human abilities. This project focuses on the use of the Malmo platform to research collaborative game playing AI that enhance player experience in human-agent interactions.

The main aim of this research is to develop an approach to general collaborative game-playing AI that enables agents to enhance the experience of human players attempting a range of tasks in Minecraft; as measured by enjoyment, immersion, engagement and performance. To do so we will research

  1. Imitation learning to provide a predictable companion;
  2. Reward functions for encouraging contribution towards a shared goal instead of individual performance;
  3. Predictive models of player behaviour to identify human goals in domains with no explicit extrinsic reward.

The student recruited will be co-supervised by Dr Sam Devlin (Digital Creativity Labs) and Dr Katja Hofmann (Microsoft Research)


We are seeking a highly motivated candidate who should have, or expect to be awarded, a first-class or master’s degree in Computer Science, Mathematics or a related area of science. Preferred skills include a strong mathematical background, a keen interest in software engineering and programming, and excellent writing, communication, presentation and organization skills. Experience with reinforcement learning, deep neural networks and player experience will be developed during the project but any prior experience of candidates should be emphasised in their application.

The student will be embedded within the communities of both the Digital Creativity Labs ( and the Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence Centre for Doctoral Training ( at York and as such applicants with an interest in cross-disciplinary research and gaming are strongly encouraged to apply.


In addition to covering the UK/EU tuition fees in full, the scholarship comes with a stipend of at least £15,000 per annum, which is above the Research Councils UK standard doctoral stipend level. The scholarship also includes a generous provision for research visits at Microsoft Research Cambridge, for travel to conferences and summer schools, and for computing equipment. To be considered for this studentship, applicants must be eligible to pay home/EU fees and be able to meet the EPSRC requirements:

In particular, note the residence requirements for a full scholarship, as well as the conditions for a fees-only scholarship. Further details regarding industrial CASE studentships can be found at:

How to Apply

​Applications must apply online for a full-time PhD in Computer Science at:

Please state "Microsoft Research CASE Scholarship 2017" in the "Funding Information" section of the form.

The closing date for applications is 30 April 2017


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