Waypoint

The Power of Video Games in the Age of Trump

By building games to critique Republican rhetoric, the designers behind GOP Arcade stumbled upon a new way to make a point.

Patrick Klepek

Patrick Klepek

In Bomb the Right Place, players are told "the world thinks America is weak," which mean it's time to start bombing the shit out of some foreign countries and get some respect! If you choose to enact diplomacy, it's game over because "you made America look weak." If you don't bomb anyone, same deal. But when tasked with actually bombing someone—like, say, Kabul—players are presented with a largely unlabeled map and a cursor. If you bomb the wrong country, you still win. "I think the got they still got the message," the game reads, and asks you to try again.

Bomb the Right Place is part of a larger series of pointed games in the GOP Arcade, which spent the better part of 2016 skewering the political rhetoric of the Grand Old Party and, quite often, Donald Trump. Some of their games, like Bomb the Right Place, manage to relay an uncomfortable, powerful message through game design, regardless of political persuasion. (Though I'm a progressive who often disagrees with American foreign policy in the Middle East, I couldn't find Kabul on a map, and I shut the game off with a sense of shame. It worked.)

Thoughts & Prayers, made in response to last year's hate-driven mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando that took the lives of 49 people and wounded 53 others, is similarly agonizing. "America faces an epidemic of mass shootings," reads the game's opening text, as Contra-style 16-bit music blares loudly. "It's up to you to stop them." Your only options, though, are to "think" and "pray," riffing on the Republican Party's penchant for empty messages on social media after outbreaks of violence, rather than working towards gun control legislation.

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