A yorkshire pig steers a 'Pong'-like game with its snout.
Hamlet (or maybe Omelette) is a bit of a retro gamer. Eston Martz/Pennsylvania State University

Pigs won’t be flying anytime soon, but they could soar through the virtual skies of Flight Simulator. A peer-reviewed study published in the Frontiers of Psychology is the first to confirm that pigs can play, comprehend, and enjoy video games—even without a food reward.

Research into video game-playing pigs began in the 90s, when Candace Croney, author of the study and director of Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science, teamed up with pig researcher Stanley Curtis. The pair stuck two Yorkshire pigs in front of a Pong-like game designed for chimps, encouraging the animals (named Hamlet and Omelette) to control a joystick with their snout.

Both pigs were nearsighted and required some accommodations to see the computer screen. But the pigs learned the game quickly, achieving over 70% accuracy by the end of the study. Candace Croney states that Hamlet and Omelette continued to play without food rewards (the machine that dispensed rewards broke), and would intentionally trot toward the game after begging to be the first out of their pen.

The study was later replicated with a pair of Panepinto micro pigs, who achieved similar results. In the above video, you can catch a glimpse of Hamlet gettin’ his game on sometime in the mid-2000s.

Will you ever have the chance to hit the arcade with a pig? Probably not. While this peer-reviewed study proves that pigs can associate a joystick with on-screen events, the pigs tested could only play their rudimentary game on an “easy” setting. Also, chimps and other primates outperform our hog-headed gamers in similar tests.

Source: Frontiers of Psychology via The BBC





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