For those of us who belong to the millennial or “zoomer” generations – basically anyone from teens to those in their early 40s – it’s safe to assume that we’ve had at least some experience with videogames, whether it was jumping on turtles in the original Super Mario Bros, grinding rails in Tony Hawk Pro Skater, capping zombies in Resident Evil, or dancing with mates in Fortnite.
Indeed, there’s a certain joy and sense of satisfaction we get after clearing a particularly tough level, opponent, or obstacle – which, in some cases, can make us feel pretty smart.
However, as it turns out, even a pig can play video games – and may actually enjoy them. (Although we can assume that pigs may wince at the sight of Angry Birds inflicting wanton destruction on the bad piggies and their fortresses.)
We’ve long known that swine are quite intelligent creatures. But as BBC reports, a scientific study has found that pigs do possess the mental capacity to play video games, and just a bit of training can equip them with the skills to do so.
In the new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology by researchers from Purdue University and Comparitive Cognition Project, four hogs – Ebony, Hamlet, Ivory and Omelette – were trained to manipulate an arcade-style joystick to steer an on-screen cursor into walls with only their snouts.
Each time the pigs beat a “level,” they were then given a snack as a reward.
The paper notes that prior studies had already discovered that pigs “could solve multiple choice problems.” However, the discovery that the pigs understood the connection between the stick and the game “is no small feat” – especially because pigs are far-sighted and don’t have hands or thumbs.
Impressively, the pigs were even happy to play the game even when the food reward dispenser broke – largely because they enjoyed the social contact and encouraging words from the researchers.
The competency of the gaming pigs varied, with one pig proving to be a much keener gamer than the others.
While we can’t expect that the pigs will be able to beat the epic “A Quiet Exit” mission in Metal Gear Solid V or the infamous train scene in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the fact remains that pigs can play video games.
The findings weren’t a surprise to Kate Daniels of Willow Farms in Worcestershire, who told BBC: “I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone that works with pigs”.
“They’re not playing Minecraft – but that they can manipulate a situation to get a reward is no surprise at all,” she added.
“Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you, and pigs look you right in the eye,” she noted, paraphrasing a Winston Churchill quote. “When you look a pig right in the eye, you can tell there’s intelligence there.”
Indeed, past studies have shown that pigs are intelligent enough to use mirrors to locate hidden food in an enclosure and can even be taught like dogs to “come” and “sit” using verbal commands.
“This sort of study is important because, as with any sentient beings, how we interact with pigs and what we do to them impacts and matters to them,” lead author and Purdue Center for Animal Welfare Science director Candace Croney said.
“We therefore have an ethical obligation to understand how pigs acquire information, and what they are capable of learning and remembering, because it ultimately has implications for how they perceive their interactions with us and their environments,” she added.
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