The US Military’s Surprising Use of Sea Lions: Training Them to Play Video Games

The US Navy has unveiled a new research program that involves training some of its sea lions to play video games. As part of the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, which trains sea lions and dolphins to help with various missions, the Enclosure Video Enrichment (EVE) system has been designed to keep the animals in its care engaged and happy.

Sea Lions Prove Intelligent and Enthusiastic Players

The EVE system allows the sea lions to use an oversized set of buttons to control a cursor on a screen, accomplishing certain objectives in a simplified video game. It has proven that sea lions are capable of playing relatively complex games and seem to genuinely enjoy it. In some cases, they have even completed gaming sessions without receiving positive reinforcement in the form of food. Principal researcher Kelley Winship even mentioned that sea lions may have the upper hand over humans in terms of gameplay because they don’t get frustrated with the game and only stop playing when they’re finished.

The new gaming system is the latest development from the US Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, which trains dolphins and sea lions to assist in reconnaissance and recovery missions.

Dolphins Also Join the Fun

As well as the sea lions, the program also allows dolphins to try their fins at video gaming. However, the setup required for the dolphins, who are entirely sea-dwelling creatures, is somewhat more extensive.

The Importance of Caring for Military Animals

While the gaming program is certainly an exciting development for animal welfare, it also highlights the way the US Navy looks after its most valuable assets, including its animal employees. The Navy is committed to providing only the highest standard of care to its animals, and as part of the Marine Mammal Program, it is bound to cater to the animals’ mental and physical health just as much as their physical fitness and training.

It’s important to note that the animals who are trained for the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program undergo thorough scientific assessment and are only selected if they meet a rigorous set of criteria. And although the program involves animals helping with various missions and other tasks, their health and wellbeing remains paramount.


The latest development from the US Navy’s Marine Mammal Program is both fascinating and important. The Enclosure Video Enrichment system doesn’t just provide the animals with some much-needed entertainment, it also shows that sea lions have the intelligence and capacity to play games humans enjoy. Additionally, it highlights the Navy’s dedication to ensuring the wellbeing of its animals. Hopefully, the program’s success will encourage those looking after animals in captivity to think a little more creatively about the ways they keep their charges entertained and content.


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