TouchTone is an interesting, and possibly controversial, iOS (iPhone, iPad) game from Mikengreg (Mike Boxleiter and Greg Wohlwend) about government surveillance. Essentially, players take the role of an NSA-like agent as they solve puzzles and decide what information is “pertinent” to the security of the country.
TouchTone has visual puzzles in which there are angle shapes, I’ve encountered slabs and triangle so far, and colored wavelengths shot from a unique point on the screen. Over time, these puzzles went from simplistic single rays to multiple rays, with multiple shapes on the screen. They are incredibly easy at first, but slowly became more and more difficult. To alter the direction of the wavelengths in order to connect them to their coinciding ports, I had to move shapes side to side by scrolling through rows and columns. This creates some complex puzzles as multiple shapes along the same row or column will be moved if the row/column moves.
The secondary puzzle to TouchTone is making the decision, as the agent, as to whether or not acquired information poses a security threat or not. E-mails and texts include information ranging from library books, to the drug trade and terrorism. The iPhone game also takes itself incredibly seriously, which I find refreshing. Today, iPad games take a humorous approach far too often, and it’s nice to be so immersed in a security environment. Everything, from the visual presentation to the sounds and messages, seems professional, at least enough so that the threats felt organic and dangerous. Upon exiting the tutorial, the UI “crashed” in-game, showing a series of command-lines and skull designs, expressing how tech-based this job was supposed to be. Immediately after this kill-screen, I was contacted by an entity known as the “Patriot,” who put me on the mission of tracking a suspected terrorist.
This is where controversy may turn some away. Besides the debated topic of contact surveillance, the reasons as to why the US Government is interested in individuals can be questionable. For example, my first target was a Stanford Comp Sci student who owned a start-up company in Redwood City. It seemed that the suspicions aimed at this student stemmed solely from the fact that the target was a Muslim who made frequent trips to Iran. I imagine that there would have to be other reasons to suspect someone of terrorism.
TouchTone presents an enjoyable and immersive experience within a controversial topic relevant to modern day. Challenging puzzles and the security themes made me feel like an important part of this fictional take on modern day America.