Today marks an exciting day for the Gorilla Game Lab team…the first evaluation with our users.
We met outside the gorilla enclosure for a quick briefing about the order of events, protocols, and most excitingly, the version of the game system and the relevant modules being trialled. We decided to setup the GGL prototype to be nice and easy for the gorillas to investigate if they could understand the general goals of the game: to get a nut from the hopper to the retrieval module.
The prototype was setup with game module occupying only the central vertical column of the grid, with a Go Pro camera in the top right corner module. The following modules were used:
- A module to house the nuts,
- A module with recesses to catch nuts in the corner and a central deflector,
- A module with two flat platforms
- A module with two levels with open bottom half for easy nut/reward collection
Upon fastening the prototype to the enclosure mesh, Kukena, an adult female gorilla (6-years-old) came over to investigate, quickly setting about putting her fingers into the module holes and trying to move the nuts out of the top module, through the other modules, towards the bottom. After a few minutes, she retrieved nuts from the bottom and quickly scoffed down the peanut treat. We’d been told that nuts are a particular favourite of the gorillas at Bristol Zoo Gardens. Word seems to travel fast in the gorilla enclosure and soon the area surrounding the game was populated with the rest of the troop. Two young gorillas began to help Kukena to solve the game puzzles, working collaboratively, while some of the other gorillas in the troop watched on in close proximity.
However, this gorilla gaming Eden was abruptly interrupted by the arrival of 35-year old, resident Silverback, Jock who sent the gorillas packing while he investigated the game. Although inquisitive, Jock was in no mood to attempt any game puzzles, instead collecting peanuts scattered on the floor, having been left behind by the other gorillas in their haste to get out of his way. Content at having had a few treats, Jock departed from the game space but sat down within the vicinity to keep an eye on the other gorillas as they tentatively returned for another game. This time, it was the turn of alpha female, Touni, to pull rank on the other girls and enjoy exclusive use of the game in collaboration with her one-year old offspring Ayana. Poor Kukena sat close by, patiently waiting for another opportunity for play – almost queuing. Very British.
Touni successfully used the game for 40 minutes, sharing her spoils with Ayana. After Touni was finished, the omnipresent Kukena ran over to have another go but sadly there were no more nuts remaining. However, Kukena was undeterred, happily retrieving the dregs and shells of the peanuts just in case there were some undiscovered treats. She also fashioned a tool from a strand of hay to help her, sticking it in the module holes to manoeuvre the debris towards the exit.
After one hour of game play, the research team decamped outside the gorilla Glasshouse for a debrief. We were amazed with the level of engagement afforded by the prototype in comparison to previous puzzle features but there were several areas for improvement. Firstly, the level of challenge appeared too easy as the nuts had to be refilled halfway through the evaluation – our future modules needed to be more challenging. Secondly, the game had been dominated by Touni and Kukena, so we were interested how some of the other (lower ranking) gorillas would use it in the future.