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12 Active AI Game Competitions to Check Out in 2021 (Ongoing and Upcoming)

joooyz profile image Joy Originally published at ・7 min read

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 (up-to-date as of May 2021).

List of AI Game Competitions

  1. Kaggle Simulations
  2. AWS DeepRacer
  3. Coder One
  4. Battlecode
  5. Terminal
  6. CodinGame
  7. Russian AI Cup
  8. Battlesnake
  9. Lux AI Challenge
  10. IEEE Conference on Games
  11. Robot Rumble
  12. Codecup

  1. Kaggle Simulations (2010 —)


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 ConnectXHungry 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. Currently, their simulations only support submissions in Python.

  1. AWS DeepRacer (2018—)

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.

  1. Coder One (2020—)

Coder One AI Sports Challenge

Coder One is an upcoming competition platform that will feature a range of AI games across different genres designed for both casual competition and research.

Previous competitions featured a Bomberman-like two-player action game with AUD5,000-10,000 cash prize pools. The competitions are held in multi-stage tournaments, with a closing finale stream featuring the finalist teams. Participants are free to use any language of choice. Starter kits are provided in Python and TypeScript.

Coder One is currently in closed beta, but you can sign up to the waitlist to get notified of competitions happening later this year.

  1. Battlecode (2003—)

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.

  1. Terminal by Correlation One (2018—)

Terminal by Correlation One

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.

  1. CodinGame (2012—)


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.

  1. Russian AI Cup (2012—)

The Russian AI Cup is an annual competition organized by Mail.Ru Group and Games vary widely between competitions, but previous years have featured RTS, action/platformers, and more.

Each competition sees about ~2,000 participants each year, with prizes that range from merchandise, MacBook and cash (up to 250,000 rubles).

Their sandbox mode is open now for practise, but the competition will be returning December 2021. Officially supported languages are: C++, C#, F#, D, Go, Java, Kotlin, Scala, Python, Ruby, JavaScript, Rust.

  1. Battlesnake (2015—)


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.

To participate, you'll need to host your agent on your own server implementing the Battlesnake API. You'll be able to use any language, with official starter kits available for Python, Go, Java, JavaScript, and Ruby.

  1. Lux AI Challenge (2021—)

Lux AI Challenge

The Lux AI Challenge is an upcoming competition, with a target launch date of June 2021 and will run for about a month. It will feature a 2-player RTS game and ranked leaderboard. From the website:

The competition involves a multi-variable optimization and resource gathering and allocation problem in a 1v1 scenario against competitor bots.

It will be hosted in partnership with Kaggle, and support Python, JavaScript, Go, and Java out of the box.

  1. IEEE Conference on Games (2019 —)

This isn't a competition website, but the IEEE Conference on Games (CoG) is worth checking out. 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.

  1. Robot Rumble (2021—)

Robot Rumble is still in Alpha but has a public demo available to try out. It's a simple 2-player game, in which you will control robots that spawn every 10 turns. These robots can either move or attack. Your goal is to end the game with more robots than your opponent.

Python and JavaScript agents are supported out of the box. The organizers have plans to run an upcoming competition. You'll be able to join their waitlist to be notified of any announcements.

  1. CodeCup (2000—)

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.

Special Mentions

Here are some additional websites to check out that don't necessarily feature competitions:

  • Screeps (2014—): Described as a MMO sandbox game for programmers. Available for purchase on Steam. JavaScript only.
  • Starcraft 2 AI Arena (2016—): An arena with an active community developing scripted and deep learning agents for Starcraft 2.
  • AICrowd (2016—): Similar to Kaggle, occasionally hosts simulation-type games.
  • (2017—): Website featuring a wide range of games such as Battleship, Chess and Go.
  • OpenAI Gym (2016—): Toolkit for developing and benchmarking reinforcement learning algorithms. Environments range from toy text problems to Atari games and MuJoCo physics simulators.

Closing Remarks

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. If there are any competitions I've missed, or if you have any suggestions and feedback, please let me know.

Thanks for reading! I hope you managed to find a competition that interests you.

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