October 2, 2009 in Business

The fun of killing bugs, without the mess

Valley trap-maker Sterling International unveils video game
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Courtesy of “BugFarm” photo

This screen shot portrays the spined soldier bug, a character from the “BugFarm” video game.Courtesy of “BugFarm”
(Full-size photo)

Get your game on

“BugFarm” the game sells for $24.95. Find it at bugfarm.com.

A Spokane Valley company that kills bugs with pesticide-free traps is now in the video game business.

“BugFarm,” a DVD game released this week by Spokane Valley-based Sterling International Inc., features a cast of crawlies moving around in a 3-D garden. The game rewards players for knowing the difference between good bugs and bad bugs.

Sterling International has a worldwide customer base.

Its biggest-selling products are the Rescue line of colored plastic traps that hold and kill hornets, wasps, yellowjackets and other pests.

In 2004, company founder Rod Schneidmiller hired a company to develop an educational video game that teaches basic gardening and plant science.

It took five years to finish the job.

Part of the delay was a “hiccup” in production connected to a lawsuit during the early phase of game development.

That suit, against a Canadian software company hired to develop some of the code, was resolved in 2007.

The game is for children 7 and up, said Stephanie Cates Herrmann, a company spokeswoman.

Every video game needs a hero, and here it’s the lowly spined soldier bug. The spined soldier bug’s main role is to eat or kill nasty plant-destroying bugs.

The cast of bad bugs includes cabbage loopers, Colorado potato beetles and tomato hornworms.

The game begins with planting seeds and helping to grow one’s soldier bugs in a nursery. The game ends when the garden is harvested and judged at a county fair.

“The game is a great introduction to entomology, and our hope is it could also spark interest in growing a real vegetable garden,” Schneidmiller said.

As much as a game can, “BugFarm” rewards good plant care and penalizes the opposite. If not watered, the garden dries up, Herrmann said.

“If you don’t remove the bad bugs, they’ll eat the plants,” she said.

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