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Why Ted Cruz likes this one smartphone game, according to the guy who created it

Ted Cruz’s surprise victory in this week’s Republican Iowa caucuses provided more evidence that he’s a master strategist. And given his campaign’s obsession with long-lost books about Barry Goldwater, he’s looking for the upper hand wherever he can find it. Even an iPhone game.

On Tuesday, a photo of the Texas senator playing the game “Tower Madness 2” emerged online. Taken back in October, it shows Cruz on a flight prior to takeoff, fully immersed in its world. What could Cruz, a man who hates avocados but loves Jesus, possibly enjoy about this game? We contacted its creator, Arash Keshmirian, to see if he could offer any insight. Below, a brief conversation with the 32-year-old co-founder and CEO.

(Full disclosure: Keshmirian and I once shared a car to Las Vegas in college but have not spoken in about eight years. Cruz reignited our friendship. Thank you, Ted.)

Yahoo Politics: What was your reaction when you saw Ted Cruz playing your game?

Arash Keshmirian: Among mobile game developers, we have this concept of “the Holy Grail,” and that’s when you see your own game being played by someone in the wild. My friend Keith Shepherd, who created the wildly successful “Temple Run” — even he still considers this to be a rare event. When it’s a famous public figure like Ted Cruz, well, that’s even more incredible. We’ve got 37 million players around the world, so we’re always wondering who’s out there enjoying our work.

Could you tell from the photo if he was any good at it? What level was he on?

It’s hard to see clearly, but it looks like he’s unlocked all six defense weapon slots. He’s been playing for a while. This is definitely not at all the first time he’s run the game. I think the level he’s playing is toward the end of the first campaign, but based on his progress he’s going back for a higher score!

For those of us who haven’t played the game, what’s the general premise?

The premise of “Tower Madness 2” is that you are a humble farmer tending to your flock of sheep, when evil aliens come to take them. They want to weave a scarf for their emperor back on their home world, which is very cold. With the help of a friendly alien named Xen, you must build defensive towers to fight off the evil aliens. For each alien you defeat, you get a little bit of money to spend on buying more defenses. The challenge is in the placement, weaving elaborate mazes and using the right tower for each situation. Some towers are more effective on certain types of aliens, so you have to take that into account too.

Sounds like a metaphor for the current election. Is that why you think Ted Cruz is into the game?

I’m not an expert on Cruz’s gaming preferences, but “Tower Madness 2” is a game of strategy, resource management and quick thinking. A little bit like a presidential campaign.

Were you surprised a Republican was playing it?

A little bit. Our core demographic is mostly male, and Ted Cruz is toward the top of our age range. That said, many of our hardcore players are older. Personally, I’d picture Ted Cruz as more likely to play our other popular title, “Zombie Gunship,” where you’re shooting zombies through the black-and-white heat-cam of an AC-130 gunship.

I’d love to see a “Tower Madness 2” competition between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Donald Trump’s aggressive style might be interesting as it manifests in the game. I’d be willing to put up some prizes for that to happen. Maybe we can put it up for the Democrats too? It kind of beats a coin toss.

Is it possible that your game is strengthening Ted Cruz’s strategizing skills and could potentially help him win the presidency?

There’s evidence to support that games keep the mind sharp, build connections and relieve stress, so, yes, not a bad idea for campaign downtime.

Trump, take note.

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