Can rats play video games? Scientifically, everything indicates that it is. And the proof is this experiment in which some laboratory rats managed to move through a level of the classic Doom.
The experiment was carried out by the Hungarian neuroscientist Viktor Toth and to achieve this he used a modified virtual reality viewer and a foam ball on which the rodents moved. The level they had to go through was very simple and linear, but complex enough to train the rats so that they could understand what they had to do: walk on the ball to advance in the game.
The incentive for the animals was to receive a few drops of sugar water each time they performed a successful action. The idea of Toth was that the rats could face the enemies of the game and activate a shot when lifting the body, but for reasons of time he did not manage to train such behavior. Despite this, in general the three rats had no problems meeting the objectives of the level designed by the scientist himself.
Toth explains that playing video games “involves the interconnection of various cognitive processes” in both human beings and animals of this type. In the case of rats, they are not able to understand what it means to shoot to jump an obstacle or defeat an enemy, although Toth suspects that perhaps another system to train this action could be more effective.
The overall experiment was quite time-constrained. For example, movement was recorded only on one axis, but Viktor Toth believes that his experiment proves that these types of interfaces will allow deeper studies of behaviors and processes that occur at the brain level.
The three rats were named Carmack, Romero and Tom, in honor of John Carmack, John Romero and Tom Hall, the creators of the Doom original.