January 27, 2023


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Trump vs Biden, the video game: “Politics is a combat sport”

Will you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential (Are you gonna shut it up, man? ! It’s so non-presidential)… The (only) shocking sentence of Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, in the direction of his Republican rival Donald Trump, sums up the virulence of the campaign for the American presidential election. And all the uncertainty that hangs over that, so particular, of 2020. And proves to be a formidable subject of… video game.

“Unpresidential”, launched this Wednesday, October 21 on Google’s Android smartphones and Apple’s iPhone, is a completely schoolboy fighting game where candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden can compete on the lawn of the White House. If the two rivals can hit each other with punches or heads, it is above all their “special punches” that are laughing at: fake news attack or bursts of tweets for Trump, bromance with Obama and coronavirus for Biden.

Video of the game “Unpresidential”

Beyond the fight (which will then have to integrate other characters like Kanye West, Vladimir Poutine or… Emmanuel Macron), the somewhat absurd game is based on punchlines really linked to presidential programs or to the life of the candidates. One way of using video games as a medium for political information. Politics, even more so in the age of Twitter, has become a kind of permanent battle that self-sustains a cheeky media space, analyzes the producer of “Unpresidential”, Abdel Bounane, president of the 3D Bright studio.This way of communicating in excess and permanent attack, as we saw during the Trump / Biden debate, lends itself particularly well to the mechanics of a fighting game. Politics is a real combat sport.

This is not the first video game inspired by the US presidential election. Already in 1981, a year after Reagan’s first election, “Presidential Election” came out, a sort of simulation of elections. Since then, the number of titles inspired by the political universe has been increasing, with a resurgence as each “Super Tuesday” approaches. , and even more since Donald Trump is one of the characters (there are no less than 174 games with him on the Steam platform alone).

Extract from the game “Unpresidential”

It’s true that Trump lends himself a lot to caricature, notes Abdel Bounane. Without him, it wouldn’t have the same flavor. However, even if the current campaign is incredibly violent, it tends to be highly disinterested [une abstention record est prédite, NDLR]. More than just a schoolboy fighting game, we wanted to make a game with substance, with a message – clearly anti-Trump. The journalist Raphaël Malkin, correspondent in the United States of “Society”, thus helped to write the punchlines which accompany the blows, to surreptitiously give the player information on the candidates. All brilliantly dubbed by imitator Eric Harthen.

This “Unpresidential” in any case shows that video games can serve as a medium for disseminating political information, while retaining the playful aspect. As to whether the next French presidential election will also give rise to a fighting game, Abdel Bounane is cautious: Everything will depend on what is at stake in the campaign. If it is the environment, health, safety or inequalities, then the typology of the game or more broadly of the digital experience must adapt. The content and the form must always meet, but there will necessarily be material to carry political messages in a fun way.