"Trumptendo" The Video Game Contains A Hidden Irony

There's a new Nintendo in town. Trumptendo is the brainchild of Jeff Hong, a storyboard animation artist whose line of video games provides an opportunity for those dismayed with the results of the Republican primary to get in on some fantasy catharsis. In Trumptendo, Donald Trump replaces the "villains" or "enemies" of classic games, allowing you, the player, to pummel the presumptive Republican nominee on-screen. That's an interesting and perhaps ironic approach to expressing criticism of The Donald.

Trumptendo can be played online. Hong's series of reimagined classic games includes titles such as Donald Trump's Punch Out!!, Donkey Trump,Trump Alley, and ISIS Bomberman, each of which offers unique opportunities for wailing on Trump. Why did Hong make these games? The answer is obvious: to "Make Nintendo Great Again," which serves as the apt slogan of Trumptendo.

Now, sometimes I'm told that I "over-analyze" things, that I "think too much" and "read too much into things." But I do see, if not necessarily a problematic message, then at least a substantive conversation-starter in this video game series. I'll disclaim first that, overall, Trumptendo is a funny way to satirize Trump, turning the reality star into a literal character. And it's just a way to have some freaking fun with the upsetting mess that is the 2016 election season. Kudos to Hong for this creative and interactive manifestation of our collective frustration.

But I do find it ironic to make Trump into a "villain" or "enemy," sometimes one subjected to violence.

No, I don't think video games actually inspire violence. But two of the most popular critiques of Trump and his campaign are: 1) his divisive rhetoric, which vilifies groups of people, including Mexicans and Muslims; and 2) that his rhetoric inspires violence among his supporters.

Trump's campaign has, broadly, made it clear that many people no longer expect or desire any degree of civility in politics. Not that it was always, or ever, a polite arena, but the unbridled name-calling, insults, and even penis references we've witnessed throughout the 2016 primary from the mouth and Twitter account of Donald Trump have left some of us reeling with disappointment, not to mention frightened for the future.

There are different ways to respond in protest to the Trump phenomenon. One is to vilify Trump, turning his divisive rhetoric back on him and his supporters. A Washington Examiner headline from May 6 provides a good example: "Is Trump an evil, lawless despot-wannabe; or is he just an ignorant blowhard?" The choice between evil and ignorant also applies to his supporters, who we can simply write off as bad or dumb.

There's an obvious problem with this approach. It's like protesting nuclear weapons by blowing up nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons. If divisiveness, demonization, and the "us against them" mentality are at the root of our critique, then we ought to take care to root them out of our response.

Another way to respond to Trump's rise is to take it, and most importantly, his supporters, seriously. Yes, some of them surely have racist and sexist and xenophobic motivations. But there's more behind Trump's success as a candidate than that.

If we can resist the knee-jerk assumption that "they" are the enemy, we put ourselves in a position to understand that many of his supporters have reasons — values, concerns, fears, struggles — that make Trump appealing to them. We can still find their conclusions problematic, and we can even disagree with their reasons, but making an evil monolith of his base, and an evil villain of the man himself, is kind of a Trump move.

Of course, playing a Trumptendo game in which your Bernie Sanders character dodges barrels flung by Donkey Trump won't make you a hateful person or a hypocrite. It'll give you a few minutes of politically-charged fun, and many of us could use something light-hearted in the midst of primary chaos. But a session of Super Bernie Bros. or maybe Donkey Trump Jr. also provides an occasion for reflecting on how we approach those with whom we disagree: as villains to defeat or as fellow players in a game that's hard to play.

Images: Trumptendo (5)