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GPT-4 turns Pokémon Emerald into a text adventure

It’s surprisingly straightforward to play

An image of the start screen for the Game Boy Advance game, Pokémon Emerald. It shows the silhouette of Rayquaza. It says: Pokémon Emerald Version 2005 Game Freak inc. Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company via Typhlosion4President/YouTube

A clever person has already found a unique application for GPT-4, the newest artificial intelligence language model from the creators of ChatGPT. As it turns out, GPT-4 can read the code for the Game Boy Advance game Pokémon Emerald and turn it into a fully interactive text adventure, with the mechanics of a Pokémon adventure.

Twitter user Dan Dangond discovered that the AI model could run Pokémon Emerald, a popular Game Boy Advance game released stateside in 2005. Dangond posted a screenshot-by-screenshot thread that contains his conversation with the chatbot. The game starts more or less as it would if you were playing it on the handheld — save for some some features, like setting up the clock at the beginning — but works as a fully interactive text adventure. Dangond “plays” the game by responding to the AI in chat.

As always with mainline Pokémon games, in Pokémon Emerald you explore a region and battle other Pokémon in turn-based combat, so the text largely describes battles and calculates them. As Dangond begins, the AI offers the choice between the three starter Pokémon of the region: Treecko, Torchic, and Mudkip. From there, the Mudkip is sent out to battle a Poochyena, which is an actual Pokémon you can battle on the first route.

Dangond told Polygon via Twitter that he didn’t use any ROMs or code to run it. All he did was ask GPT-4 to pretend to be Pokémon Emerald, and it ran. The game works like a rough text simulation that incorporates all the key mechanics of Pokémon, such as type strengths and weaknesses. However, there are several missteps — for example, it fails to calculate that the bug- and ground-type Nincada is weak to water. It also randomly decides to start including accuracy calculations after playing through a portion of the game, and makes a Rock Tomb attack miss. In addition, it skips several battles and misses certain plot beats.

“The best analogy to what’s happening is that it’s like asking a friend to pretend to be Pokémon Emerald for you,” Dangond said. “That kind of experience is only as good as your friend’s memory of the game, and GPT-4 seems to know a surprising amount about the game.”

This text-based game comes at a time when many people are still feeling out what the actual capabilities of generative AI are. According to OpenAI, GPT-4 is a multimodal model that is “less capable than humans in many real-world scenarios,” but can exhibit “human-level performance on various professional and academic benchmarks.” According to other tech journalists who have covered the technology, it’s supposedly more capable and sophisticated than its predecessor, ChatGPT, and it is acing standardized tests left and right. Now we can add running a Pokémon game to this list of skills.

GPT-4 wasn’t created with running video games in mind, and it shows. Any person who would want to play Pokémon Emerald like this would greatly benefit from having played the original game. Without visuals and a general knowledge of the world, it would be nearly impossible to play. Still, it’s a fun discovery that GPT-4 can run this game in any capacity, and that’s where the potential for fun and more tinkering lies.

Update (March 17): We’ve updated this article to add additional comments and information from Dan Dangond.

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