Forget crawling to the “Ugly Bug Ball”, let’s talk slipping and sliding along to the Slug Disco!

Tuesday 9th January 2024

…a blog written by Nikki Banfield, Buglife Communication Officer supported by Mike Connor, Slug Disco Studios Community Manager

In April 2023 we had an email from Slug Disco Studio Director, Liam, with an exciting proposal.  Slug Disco were taking part in an online event, the Steam Earth Appreciation Festival, which raises awareness of issues related to World Earth Day amongst the gaming community.  But what did this have to do with us; Slug Disco Studios explained that they wanted to donate 10% of their sales revenue during the event to Buglife!

Not only were Slug Disco raising awareness of a whole host of topics, from pollution to overpopulation, through to climate change, lack of sustainability and beyond, their game “Empires of the Undergrowth” features bugs, so it seemed like a great fit and we were keen to learn more.

Northern Dune Tiger Beetle (Cicindela hybrida) © Mark Eising Birding
Northern Dune Tiger Beetle (Cicindela hybrida) © Mark Eising Birding

For those not in the know (we know we certainly weren’t!) Empires of the Undergrowth is an ant colony management game for the PC, which is family friendly and features real species of invertebrates, including the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle (Cicindela hybrida), the Black Ant (Formica fusca) and Slave Maker Ants (Formica sanguinea) which can all be found in the UK.  Players excavate underground nests, constructing tunnels and chambers to store food and raise their young.  As their colony expands they send their ants on trails to explore the treacherous overworld and gather resources.

The game tries to remain as close to nature as possible, with all of the ants and other creatures within the game, bar one, based on real world counterparts; reflecting and giving insight into some of the everyday struggles that these tiny, industrious insects face.  For Slug Disco their love of the invertebrate world is self-evident not only in their theme choice but the work carried out to keep Empires of the Undergrowth true to life; quietly encouraging invertebrate education and learning amongst their players whilst creating engaging game play.

It definitely sounded like our kind of game and they sounded like our kind of people.

The Steam Earth Appreciation Festival 2023 came and went.  Throughout the week we saw lots of talk on socials, you may have even seen us share some posts about it and Slug Disco’s fantastic pledge?  There was much talk of games and gaming and of course… ants.  We were beyond delighted when Liam caught up with us in the months following the festival to share that they had not only exceeded their expectations, in terms of the amount they would be donating to us, but they’d absolutely smashed it.

Slug Disco Studios would be donating an amazing £2224 to Buglife as a result of Empires of the Undergrowth sales.

During November 2023 Slug Disco deposited the donation amount via our Big Give No Insectinction campaign, which meant that their donated amount was doubled and we now had a fantastic £4448 as a result of Slug Disco and their supporters.

It seemed fitting that Slug Disco’s donation went towards our No Insectinction campaign.  No Insectinction is a call for action; a coming together of people and organisations with a shared endeavour to heal our planet’s life support system.
🦋 ensuring insects, and all other invertebrates, have room to thrive;
🦗 creating safe spaces for our buggy friends; and
🤎 building friendlier relationships with the small things that run the planet.

We hope the themes of ecology and interconnectedness in the natural world that are central to Empires of the Undergrowth will bring more awareness to the work of Buglife through our charity partnership. It’s a topic that’s important to us all, whether we realise it or not – after all, we cannot look after ourselves without also looking after our miniature neighbours on this planet.” ~ Mike Connor, Slug Disco Community Manager

Recently, the Slug Disco team have shared some fascinating discoveries about the people who play their game.  Although strategy gamers are drawn to Empires of the Undergrowth, as you would expect, Slug Disco have found that bug fans are also keen to get their hands on a copy; whether that’s young people and their parents or individuals with a life-long fascination for the “empires beneath our feet”.  Either way bug enthusiasts are some of Slug Disco’s most appreciative players, with the love of the game even going so far as encouraging some to pursue their dreams of studying entomology.

So what happens next?

Narrow-headed Ant (Formica exsecta) © Gus Jones
Narrow-headed Ant (Formica exsecta) © Gus Jones

For Buglife, amongst many other things we are embarking on a couple of ant related projects.  One being a species recovery project focussing on the very rare Narrow-headed Ant (Formica exsecta), an ant that is now restricted to the Scottish Highlands and South Devon.  The other being the beginnings of survey work and a possible species recovery project focussing on the Endangered Red-barbed Ant (Formica rufibarbis) which is only known from two areas in the UK, the Isles of Scilly and Chobham Common, Surrey.

As for Slug Disco they tell us that they’re somewhat notorious for their long development cycle for Empires of the Undergrowth; that said, the game is now nearing completion, scheduled to be released fully in 2024.

We can’t wait to see not only what happens next but are looking forward to partnering with them in the future if the opportunity arises.  Who would’ve thought that gaming and invertebrate conservation could be so intricately linked?

More information:

Learn more about Slug Disco Studios and keep up to date with their latest developments and news on Facebook, X, LinkedIn, or Discord

Want to find out more about our corporate partners or maybe thinking about supporting us in this way? Head on over to our Corporate Partnerships – Our Corporate Investors in Nature Programme web page to find out more & get in touch