GeoDefense Swarm

A few days ago, Prof. David Millard from Southampton twittered about a new tower defense game for the iPhone. It’s David Whatley’s GeoDefense Swarm. Clare Hooper also twittered about it. They’re right; it’s very good.

Millard’s work on Auld Leakey points the way, I think, toward an interesting new approach to thinking about links and, especially, hyperdrama. Claire Hooper is part of the Learning Societies Lab at Southampton, and wrote another interesting card-shark hypertext system called Storyspinner.

But what does it mean, exactly, to say that a tower defense game is good? And to what kind of “good” can a tower defense game aspire?

Raymond Chandler addressed the same question with regard to mysteries in The Simple Art of Murder.

With all this [Dashiell Hammett] did not wreck the formal detective story. Nobody can; production demands a form that can be produced. Realism takes too much talent, too much knowledge, too much awareness. Hammett may have loosened it up a little here, and sharpened it a little there. Certainly all but the stupidest and most meretricious writers are more conscious of their artificiality than they used to be. And he demonstrated that the detective story can be important writing. The Maltese Falcon may or may not be a work of genius, but an art which is capable of it is not 'by hypothesis' incapable of anything. Once a detective story can be as good as this, only the pedants will deny that it could be even better."

It seems to me that this argument can’t work for tower defense games. What tower defense game could justify our confidence that it could be capable of anything? Anything? But there’s got to be a better way to talk about art like Geodefense Swarm, a way that is more satisfying than simply saying “I liked it.”