Everybody's a Critic

By any means necessary! Kill all the bugs!

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That’s the message of a hot new game offered by iwin.com, Garden Defense. Here’s the blurb:

Backyards across Lindencroft are under attack by merciless, flower-eating pests! Using your arsenal of trigger-happy lawn ornaments, protective plants, and battle-hardened bugs, help the Smiths to repel and defeat the enemy, one garden at a time.

It’s a fantasy warfare game where players advance from level to level, facing ever more formidable armies of flying and crawling insects. The bugs must be defeated using a series of goofy weapons, starting with the lawn ornaments, but moving on to gnomes armed with rocket launchers. It sounds kind of funny and I can see where it could be entertaining. (If you’re a gamester type. The user-reviews I’ve seen have been glowing, commending the game for its graphics, humor, and addictive power.)

And yet. I don’t want to be a spoilsport, but with a name that could as easily be on a bottle of pesticide by Ortho or Scotts (in fact, isn’t it?), this game seems to reinforce the notion that most bugs are there to be annihilated. That they are invasive aliens rather than partners and cohabitants in the natural scheme of things.

That said, there are two mitigating factors here. In view of all the other hideously violent video and online games, their protagonists often serial killers, terrorists, or mobsters, with explosions and dismemberments celebrated every few seconds, it does seem a bit quaint to get excited over a few bugs. I guess. And then, I haven’t been able to play the darn thing. There’s a free trial if you follow the clicky above, but it’s only for PC-users. Wah.

Somebody of the PC persuasion want to try this out for me? Got some time to waste? If so, let us know if the bug-lovers among us should be even more worried.

Posted by on November 28, 2007 at 5:00 am, in the category Everybody's a Critic.
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14 responses to “By any means necessary! Kill all the bugs!”

  1. Marte says:

    Well, I downloaded the game, but not much help from me. You get 60 minutes of a free game. If you want more, you have to buy it. Even though I picked the “easy” option,and with the tutorial,I could not get my little garden gnome to zap the ants. But I’m not familiar with games at all. I’m sure someone who knows how to play games will report! It looked like fun, if you’re a kid. Sorry I could not be of more help. Interestingly, the narrator of the game was a college student away at school studying entomology. I still have 54 minutes left so maybe I’ll have my husband try it later.

  2. eliz says:

    You’re a sport, Marte. Already, I’m thinking, why kill ants? I have plenty and they’ve never eaten a thing. (Nor do they help peonies to bloom.)

    Remember SimAnt? Now there was a fun game.

  3. LISA-ONTARIO says:

    I guess I’m a spoil sport too. I get so tired of explaining to my neighbours and their kids that bugs are our FRIENDS, we don’t need to kill all of them. So what, you have some grubs, everyone has grubs, maybe if you hadn’t sprayed your surroundings to kingdom come you wouldn’t have an infestation, you might get a balance instead of (tee hee) your entire turf kingdom dying. But it’s hard to explain that when you kill your soil, the plants won’t grow. They don’t believe me.

  4. Carol says:

    Sounds like Centipede for the 21st century. Does anyone remember that video game? Had to shoot the mushrooms and watch out for dropping spiders, caterpillars and scorpions, or something like that.

  5. sandra says:

    Not being a games player but having watched my grandkids play, and having watched a good few films, I get the impression that the message is – if you don’t know what it is zap it. And that goes for humans on down to, I guess, bugs. A very distructive and zenophobic theme is constantly sent out.
    Wouldn’t it be fun to have a creative game, building a garden despite all the hazards gardens undergo – early frost, late frost, builders repairing the roof, the 3 year olds who behead all the tulips, the rose bush that doesn’t thrive, the hurricane, and a local flower store which only stocks petunia plants.

  6. Nan Ondra says:

    Oh, thanks so much, yet another way to not do what I’m supposed to be doing. I ended up using the free 60-minute trial this morning. I thought Garden Defense was fun to play and cleverly done. It was a little strange shooting things that looked like butterflies; mostly, though, I didn’t even notice that the other invaders were supposed to be insects. What with gnomes, peeing statues, and demented flamingos to move around and seed-spitting sunflowers to fertilize and propagate, there was a lot going on. I don’t think I’d pay to play it–Neopets is my time-waster of choice–but it was interesting, and I seriously doubt it’ll do much to promote additional anti-bug sentiment.

  7. eliz says:

    I like a game now and then, just for breaks when I’m writing. But I’m automatically prejudiced against any company that ignores mac-users.

    Maybe I’ll look into neopets.

  8. Reading Dirt says:

    Why would I want to only PRETEND to garden?

    I’m going to guess that the programmers aren’t gardeners themselves, but were asked to design a game that they think will appeal to gardeners. With no better model of gaming than “see enemy, shoot enemy, score points,” this was the best they could do.

  9. Mike says:

    Halfway through the game, you do get some friendly bugs that help you defend your gardens from the bad bugs.

  10. Spanky says:

    I think this game’s pretty creative. I showed this to my younger brother and sisters and they actually like it. It must have something to do with the cartoony look to it. But as far as sending out a message to them that bugs kill plants, they know better from my mother. So it always goes back to what parents teach their kids and how to differentiate computer games from reality. And as for the game being anti-mac, thumbs down for me too!

  11. Andy says:

    Hi Everyone, I’m Andy, the Creative Director and one of the major designers of “Garden Defense”. As a child, I eagerly studied entomology in my mother’s gardens and in the countless books on insects and spiders that my parents got me. As an adult, I live in a household with reptiles and rodents in addition to more mainstream pets such as cats and goldfish. In my day-to-day life, I will not squash an insect if I can easily catch it and release it outside where it can life its life without bothering me.

    My design partner, Israel, is a vegetarian who loves to work in the garden whenever he can. He has a seven year old daughter and is as concerned as I am about what messages the media give to everyone.

    I was disappointed to see “eliz”s dismissive comment that depicted developers as incapable of making a game without violence. The truth is that the bestselling games in the _world_ are Sims, Flight Simulators, and other equally nonviolent games. But an absence of violence doesn’t sell newspapers as much as sensationalizing the one game in ten thousand that depicts graphic violence.

    I’ll take a moment on the soapbox to make a few observations to encourage you to enjoy the game.

    * The game will not appeal to gardeners as a ‘gardening simulation’. None of us ever want to replace the actual experience of gardening.

    * We did want to create a game that is about defending the defenseless in a locale that is familiar and comfortable to you.

    * The game’s protagonist is a college Entomology student who loves insects and spiders. Her name is Charlotte (a nod to a famous spider) and her pet Black Widow’s name is Merriam. I’ll let you in on a secret: the spider’s last name is “Webster”!

    * A third of the way into the game, we introduce good bugs. The message of the game was NEVER “destroy all bugs”, but rather, “these bugs are somehow different, and are a threat to your garden”.

    * The reward for keeping your gardens safe is a hundred times the reward for killing any pest. I wanted the feeling of reward to not come from any act of violence, but from keeping helpless plants SAFE from violence.

    * There are no pesticides in this game. I hate pesticides!

    I’m sorry about not having a Mac version at this time. My own mom gives me grief about that every time I ship a game! It’s largely a matter of market pressure to put the game where it will sell the best. Your Windows-toting comrades buy ten times as many games, but if the game is a hit there, then bringing it to the Mac is a no-brainer. So get your friends to make the game a hit, and we’ll get it on the Mac, okay?

    I’d enjoy a chance to talk more with all of you about any additional feedback that you have.

    –Andy
    p.s. There *are* gardening games out there. I played ’em all while researching “Garden Defense”!

  12. eliz says:

    Thanks Andy. As I said in my post, I could not play the game, so I could only go by the description.

    But I appreciate your explanation; I had the sense there were “good” and “bad” bugs in the game, and took note of all the good reviews. Also, as I commented, I am a big SIM fan. Unfortunately, as you say, all we hear about are the violent games.

    Thanks again so much for taking the time to talk about your game!

    Elizabeth Licata (if you had looked at the “who were are” sidebar, you would not have needed to use “eliz.” Our full names are available to anyone who clicks on the site.)

  13. susan harris says:

    Andy, thanks so much for responding. You make the conversation much more interesting, and we LOVE it when that happens. Susan

  14. Michael B. says:

    First off all Please play a few of tower defense games and later do opinion about it.
    I’ve tried Desktop Tower Defense, Warzone, Grid defense and many many more.
    Garden Defense I’ts a great, great “tower defense” game. Beautifull graphics and playability. If You know what I’m talking about You’ll appreciat it.
    Making funny theories about everything it’s easy.
    Best regards to everyone!

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