Play a corrupt businessman elected to the highest office in This is the President

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One does not become president of the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the history of human existence, without getting one’s hands dirty. Maybe it was a matter of political necessity—a few twisted arms, some sketchy campaign backers—or maybe you’re an amoral halfwit bloated on inherited wealth and low-rent narcissism who fell backwards into the job. Either way, you’ve reached the top—now, what will you do to stay there?

Unlike many political simulations, which focus on the process of getting elected, This is the President is about what happens after: The game begins in the year 2020, shortly after your election, and rather than worrying about the affairs of the nation, your only concern is dodging responsibility for all the crimes you committed in your pre-president days as a “shady multi-millionaire businessman.” 

The way to make this happen is to ratify the 28th Amendment, a currently fictional, banana republic-style update to the US Constitution that would grant the president lifetime immunity from criminal prosecution. Sadly, the process of making that happen is a little complicated, and the sins of your past will almost inevitably be compounded by the consequences of the many more bad choices you’ll make in the near future.

“Manage your official and unofficial staff like a real mafioso in order to deal with all the old problems you’ve had in the past, as well as the shiny new problems that come with the office. You’ll battle with your competitors, the establishment, the media and even foreign leaders,” the Steam page says. “In this political thriller-satire mix, the player’s actions will inescapably lead to situations that escalate into absurd, terrifying, tragic and even ridiculous situations.”

There’s a whole spectrum of options on the table to turn the gears of progress, from the normal—speeches, executive orders, press conferences, Twitter tirades—to the, well, also normal but not something we talk about: bribery, threats, cyberattacks, assassinations, and worse. This particular bit of the Steam description really nails it:

“Hire a team of assassins, hackers, lobbyists, and other specialists. Send them on dangerous missions that can be solved by legal means. If that doesn’t work, send them on dangerous missions that can be solved by illegal means.”

It’s all a bit on the nose, but it’s also potentially a much more interesting take on the topic of corruption than what is generally seen in conventional political sims, which tend to treat criminality as ideology. This is the President is built on the concept of Commander-in-Chief as Mafia Don, “feared and respected on a global scale.” 

It’s too bad that the announcement trailer doesn’t showcase the game itself. The impression I get from Steam is that This is the President has the potential to be farcical—maybe even outright funny, if you’re not too hung up on the details of recent history—but the teaser doesn’t really impart any flavor at all: It’s just another day in America.

If the title of This is the President seems oddly familiar, you might be thinking of the smaller-scale authority-and-corruption game This is the Police. There is in fact a connection between them: This is the President developer SuperPAC is being “supervised” by the creators of This is the Police. 

This is the President is set to come out on December 6, at which point one of us will no doubt try our hand at further debasing what remains of the Land of the Free’s reputation for good governance.

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