lorentz_richard.jpgRichard Lorentz, CSUN’s very own Olympic champion, brought home two more gold medals last June, to add to the significant collection of medals he already has amassed.

Despite his 12 medals, however, Lorentz is not an elite athlete. He’s an elite gamer, and his playing field is a computer screen. A regular competitor in the Computer Olympiad, which is sponsored by the International Computer Games Association, he specializes in the game Amazons, for which he has won the gold at the Computer Olympiad for six years running (2015 was the second year in a row that his program went undefeated). Lorentz has also medaled in a game called Havannah, and in the 2015 Olympiad, held in Leiden, the Netherlands, a game called Breakthrough debuted, and he won the gold for that as well.

“The Olympiad is about computer scientists testing the limits of games,” he says.

Lorentz, a professor of computer science, has made a practice of testing his own limits against some of the best players in the world. In Europe and Asia, he explains, there is a much bigger culture of game playing than there is in the United States. People invent new games because they are interested, and once the games take hold, computer scientists get interested in figuring out ways to have computers play them as well.

Gaming of this sort falls under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, which, Lorentz explains, is the study of getting computers to do intelligent things. lorentz_richard.jpg“The reason computers are good at these games is not because they are mimicking human intelligence, but because we have developed algorithms specific to the games,” he says.

Lorentz, who includes students in his gaming projects, is already preparing for the 2016 Computer Olympiad, which will again be held in Leiden, from June 27 to July 3. Recent work he has done with one of his graduate students has him eager to return, to witness the improvement in his playing and share ideas with his fellow competitors.