Humans gave up their species exclusivity on video games a long time ago.
While you might expect a game like BioShock or Sub Hunter to be a natural fit for these flippered players, they're actually starting a bit more old, um, school.
Scientists at Princeton University, who may or may not have spent a little too much time at the nearby Yankee Doodle Tap Room, projected a video game into a fish tank for a behavioral study of the bluegill sunfish.
Yep, you read that right.The game featured dots, which were shined onto a translucent screen and moved around — representing prey. It was, in other words, a lot like shining a flashlight on the wall and driving your cat nuts — except in this case, the dots varied in size and color to simulate different sorts of potential food sources.
There's real science here, which is all covered in the report (that was published in Science magazine), but since the behavior of a fish that many consider a nuisance probably isn't high on your list of need-to-know facts for the day, allow us to point out a few of the more noteworthy elements of this study.
Fun fact #1: Fish games take time. A lot of time.
The scientists say they spent months designing the game. And to get it right, they had to put themselves in the mindset of the fish.
"An undergraduate student worked the entire summer on the exact type of dot to use," says senior researcher Dr Iain Couzin. "We tested out a whole range of different types of dots. … As far as we know the fish were not aware that (our graphics) were just little dots."
Fun fact #2: Fish have got game!
Just having a single dot wasn't enough, since fish can learn the "enemy" too quickly. That also meant developers had to code the game so that it wasn't predictable.
Fun fact #3: A sequel is already in the works.
Just as man moved on from Pong to 3D graphics, so too will fish. The team is already looking into using 3D technology to create a photo-realistic world for the fish that would allow the scientists to do eye-tracking on the fish and study their learning skills.
"It would be fascinating to understand whether the fish learned to play the game better over time," says Couzin.