What We Can Learn About Donald Trump from His 2002 Video Game

"Donald Trump's Real Estate Tycoon" let you compete against a digital version of the man, which could be a frustrating experience.

by Mike Diver
Dec 8 2015, 6:05pm

Donald Trump is a human foghorn forever screaming laughable nonsense and legitimately hateful rhetoric into the spheres of both social media and mainstream news networks. He is a walking, talking, embarrassingly influential reminder than human brains can exist in a slurry state, sloshing around skulls with few coherent thoughts but a lot of offensive stink. He'd be funny if he weren't so utterly terrifying.

I appreciate that you don't come to VICE's video game pages to read about politics—not usually, anyway. But bear with me here, just for a couple of minutes, because in 2002 gaming witnessed Trump's unlikely arrival into the medium—and how that title played is very evocative of the place we find ourselves in today, watching him march to Republican leadership.

It made sense for this cash-rules-everything-around-me son of a New York real estate developer (and alleged KKK member) to enter the gaming market—global revenue was consistently up year over year and a new generation of high-definition, multimedia consoles was imminent. It was a prime time to get into the games business. Trump knew a thing or two about buying and selling property, the fourth main SimCity release was set for 2003, so the presidential candidate—please, don't laugh—made his move, and the Activision-published Donald Trump's Real Estate Tycoon was born.

Trump's board game, simply called 'Trump,' was completely terrible—a bit like 'Monopoly,' but so much worse, with his face on every banknote.

And it wasn't totally awful, at least not to some critics of the time—a notable change in fortunes from his woeful Milton Bradley-made board game of the late 1980s, Trump. Gamespot gave Real Estate Tycoon a respectable 7.2 score in 2004, when it was ported from PC to Nokia's disastrous N-Gage, to capitalise on Trump's starring role in the stateside Apprentice. "Players will eventually tire of the monotonous gameplay," warns the review's conclusion, almost as a premonition of the hope that many hold that Trump's run for the White House will eventually troll itself into a brick wall. But Amazon's buyer reviews are more portentous than anything in Gamespot's write-up.

"You are battling against Donald and no matter how much you paint him into a corner the man will not lie down," reads one (five-star) review from 2006. "Donald refuses to concede defeat and hides behind the 'time's up' rule when it is clear he is being beaten completely."

A screenshot from 'Donald Trump's Real Estate Tycoon.'

There are more fawning words posted, from Apprentice fans and (OK, this was nearly a decade ago) real-life people who openly admit to being fans of "The Donald," as if the man himself was ever going to read them. But isn't that something? Even the virtual version of Donald Trump refuses to accept when he's done for, when his opponents have the better of him. Worse, he cheats.

Since Real Estate Tycoon, a shameless attempt to capitalize on the SimCity series' popularity (incase I failed to make that clear), the only video game that Trump's appeared in has been Trumpealo, a mobile title made by Mexican studio Karaokulta, in which the player can beat up the wannabe president while he's dressed as a chicken. Seems like a laugh. But violent video games aren't amusing to Donald, who tweeted his thoughts on bloody beat 'em ups and shooters in the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook massacre of 2012.

The Sandy Hook gunman, Adam Lanza, did play some violent games—but his favorites also included Super Mario Bros. titles and Dance Dance Revolution. No conclusive link was made between his actions and the games he enjoyed—as has been the case whenever investigations have sought connections between interactive and real-life violence (although 2015 studies revealed they might increase aggression, there's no evidence to suggest that going on a Grand Theft Auto killing spree will convince you to do the same for real).

Trump's kneejerk tweet of 2012 illustrates the behavior he continues to exhibit in 2015: He's a sound bite generator, knowingly pumping first-impressions naivety towards the public and accepting that while millions will call him out for being, for want of any better expression, an all-you-can-eat buffet of balderdash (at his best, anyway, since he's also given off all the signals of an abject racist and might possibly be a fascist), others will wave their flags of support and continue to fight his corner.

New on VICE News: Donald Trump Just Called for a 'Complete Shutdown' on Muslims Entering the US

Trump's bewildering promise of December 7 of a "total and complete" ban on Muslims entering the USA, covering refugees, immigrants, and tourists alike, is the stuff of horrific dystopian fiction to many—and yet he's leading some Republican polls in Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada. This is a man that hundreds of thousands of American citizens are actively rooting for. This is a man who has been questioned about ties to the mafia, and investigated due to possible racketeering and bribery activity. This is a man who'd be a cartoon villain in any other dimension but this one.

But no matter how much anyone else attempts to paint him into a corner, this is also a man who will not lie down. And that's scary on a scale that no video game, or any work of fiction, could ever be.

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