We breed them, kill them, cook them. Millions of man-hours have been spent flinging Angry Birds at them, but has anyone ever tried playing video games with them? A team of livestock ethics researchers and game designers in the Netherlands is doing just that with Pig Chase.
The Playing with Pigs project, collaboration between the Utrecht School of the Arts, Wageningen University, and Wageningen UR Livestock Research, sprang from a conversation between philosopher Clemens Driessen and a group of pig farmers back in 2009. Apparently Europe requires pig farmers to supply entertainment objects for their pig pens, normally something simple like a ball attached to a chain. Clemens, a researcher in animal ethics, was trying to come up with an idea more appealing to the pigs but not as costly to the farmers as a constant supply of hay.
It was during this conversation that one of the farmers, likely attempting to be a smart-ass, suggested the pigs go Wii Wii Wii all the way to the dinner table.
When it became clear we were not really getting anywhere, the farmer in whose kitchen we sat started thinking more freely, and perhaps in desperation said: "Should we then paint a forest on the walls of the pens, would they like that?" We stared a bit at the watercolor hanging on the kitchen wall, an idyllic view of pigs lying in a field next to a pool of mud. Then she said: "Or give them what our children play with, they just got their Wii."
Clemens decided this was a spectacular idea, so he approached a group of game design researchers at the Utrecht School of the Arts and set about creating an interactive game for pigs and people too.
In the course of the project researchers determined that pigs, like any other animal you've ever harried with a laser pointer, enjoy playing with light. They'll track it, poke at it and follow new lights across a surface.
That idea blossomed into Pig Chase. The pigs are given a large touch-sensitive screen to fool about with. A human armed with a tablet PC moves a ball of light across the screen, while cameras feed them images of any pigs that might want to play. The object, for the pigs, is to maintain snout contact with the light. It's the human's job to move the pig light into a triangular goal. If snout contact is lost, the light is reset. If a goal is scored, the screen goes crazy.
You can see a concept video of the game in action in the gallery above.
So what we have is a game that enables humans to play with an animal they normally only consume as meat. For pigs, humans are transformed into a source of entertainment.
The Playing with Pigs project's next step is turning its concept into a reality, so that one day pigs and people can play together at a cost much higher than simply picking up a cheap laser pointer at Walmart.
Playing with Pigs [Project Website via BoingBoing]