Lazy Friday night

As I sit here, waiting for iPhoto to recognize all the faces in my photo library, I am pondering the popularity of tower defense style games.

I have more than a couple, and the strange part is, you can play flash versions of tower defense games for free.  Desktop Tower Defense is pretty popular and has a great aesthetic.

On the PS3, I own two tower defense style games.  Pixeljunk Monsters and now, Savage Moon.  Pixeljunk, I think I like better than Savage moon, mainly because of the cooperative aspect of the tower building.

I’m trying to examine the appeal, to see if I can figure out the gameplay elements that I find the most attractive.  At their core, tower defense titles all play the same.  You’re defending a goal at the end of a path.  There is a predefined start and end of that path.  Your opposition starts at one end and if they make it to the goal too many times, you lose.  To prevent that from happening, you can build static defenses along the path that damage enemies.  Each enemy you defeat adds resources to a pool that you can then use to build more defenses, or upgrade existing ones.

Most tower defense games don’t really stray too far away from these core gameplay elements, but each tries to have a “hook.”  Pixeljunk Monsters adds cooperative play, which I really like.  Defense Grid adds a really polished three dimensional playing field and enemies, along with an actual story.  Savage Moon adds a three dimensional camera and enemies can attack your towers if you place them on the path.  Lock’s Quest adds light RPG elements and allows the character to attack enemies and repair towers while the assault is going on.

It’s almost hypnotic the way that the towers react to enemies, and I have to admit that it’s really satisfying to watch your final tower defeat something right before it reaches the goal.

Now, what does this mean?  Is it me, reveling in monster genocide?  Is there some sort of pavlovian response to watching towers whittle away at health?

Is it that playing this game is the attempt to overcome the odds, to succeed despite them?  To strive in the face of inevitability?

Or maybe I just like tower defense games.  I don’t know.