We know that you spent hours on Wind Waker‘s Outset Island terrorising the little piggies that roamed freely around the place. We know that you chucked them in the ocean, and off cliffs. We saw everything. Well, the pigs are about to get their revenge, because scientists taught them how to play video games.
Scientist researchers at Pennsylvania State University just completed a study in which they wanted to figure out if pigs could be successfully taught to play games, through reward-oriented tasks.
Don’t worry, the pigs aren’t coming for your Fortnite trophies just yet – they were given a special, very basic video game to play, called SIDE. All they had to do was nudge a joystick with their snouts, in order to get the cursor to touch the edge of the screen. Once they did, the computer would go “bloop” (the scientific term, of course) and the pigs would receive a dog food pellet, as well as praise from their handler.
The results were mixed. Two of the pigs, named Hamlet and Omelet, were fairly good at it, with 70-78% accuracy on small targets, but they didn’t seem to be learning as much as just getting it right by accident. Also, they were taken off the project early because they got too fat.
The other two pigs, Ebony and Ivory, were a little better at some tasks, and a little worse at others. However, they did seem to be learning over time.
The overall conclusion of the pig-game study was that “to some extent, [the pigs] all acquired the association between the joystick and cursor movement”, which the researchers note as being “remarkable, and indicative of their behavioural and cognitive flexibility.” Although they weren’t always very good at it, the results suggest “some level of conceptual acquisition of the task.”
Although their performance was worse than rhesus monkeys and chimpanzees, it’s worth noting that all the pigs had bad vision, which may account for some of their difficulty in completing the game, as well as having trouble moving the stick and looking at the screen simultaneously. To put it more simply: pigs need hands to be good at video games.
What animals would you like to see playing games? Have you already taught your dog to play Minecraft? Give us your research ideas below.