Published in Gaming

Age of Empires shows boffins the secrets of Ant Warfare

by on09 October 2023

Unplug the jukebox and do us all a favour

Aussie boffins have discovered that one of the best ways to model Ant warfare is to use Microsoft's classic computer game Age of Empires.

Australia has a problem of having 50 species of invasive ants, including electric, fire, and yellow crazy ants.  The government is spending millions of dollars trying to eradicate them.

Top boffin Samuel Lymbery said that ants were among the few groups of animal species in which warfare resembles human warfare in scale and mortality.

The research found small armies of strong soldiers did better in complex terrain-based battlefields, and large troops of weaker soldiers fared better in austere open battlefields. A simple battlefield would be a footpath or park in the ant world, while a complex battlefield would be bushland with undergrowth and woody debris.

Lymbery said his work could help develop new approaches to habitat management, like adding undergrowth or environmental complexity back into urbanised environments, to tip the competitive balance back in favour of native ants.

And while playing a computer game for work may seem fun, Dr Lymbery said it wasn't as entertaining as you'd think.

"You want to set up the same scenario repeatedly, run it in a very repetitive fashion, and not interfere too much," he said.

So it is probably about the most boring way to play a game.

Last modified on 09 October 2023
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