Media Technology MSc

Animal Controlled Computer Games (2006)

Animal Controlled Computer Games

This project started from a simple personal observation: playing with a pet can be more surprising in the long-run than playing a computer game. But is it possible to merge the unpredictable behaviour of an animal with a computer game by replacing parts of the computer code with real-time animal behaviour? And how will it affect the game?

Playing PacMan Against Real Crickets

To study these questions, a variant of the PacMan computer game was created in which the virtual ghost characters on the computer monitor are controlled by real crickets that run around in an actual maze. Using vibration in the physical maze, the location of the PacMan virtual character (controlled by a human player) is made available to the crickets. See it on youtube.

This project combines to important methods that are central to the Media Technology MSc programme: using personal interest and observation to initiate scientific research, and studying things that you actually create (research by doing). Also it concludes that animal behaviour can effectively create surprising situations within computer games that stretch beyond possible pre-programmed game situations.

The original article about this study was presented and published at the Fifth International Conference on Entertainment Computing, September 2006, Cambridge (UK). The project also featured on national television and in many international popular scientific magazines. Read more on the project website.