2020 is going to be one of those years where you’re going to be involved in politics whether you like it or not. It’s an election year in the United States of America, and as the year draws to a close, we’ll be finding out whether the people of the USA want to give Donald Trump another four years in charge, or whether they want someone else to step in. You might be wondering what any of this has to do with video games. The answer is that, as it turns out, video games can’t get away from politics either (we’ve seen a lot of that in the past, haven’t we?).
Somewhat improbably, there is now a Bernie Sanders-themed video game available to players on the internet. It’s free to play, and it can, therefore, be enjoyed by players of all ages. It isn’t immediately clear who came up with the design of the game as there’s no publisher’s logo associated with it (other than the name ‘Eniko’), but we don’t have to dig deep in order to understand where the game’s inspiration came from. There’s a big clue in the name. The game is called ‘Super Bernie World.’ That’s right – it’s a Bernie Sanders Super Mario game.
Super Mario, as we all know, is one of the most popular and influential video games ever made. Hundreds of platformers of the 1980s and 1990s owe their existence to the success of the first Mario game on the Nintendo, and new Mario games are still being released to this day. There was a film about Mario and Luigi, starring Bob Hoskins, released to movie theaters in the 1990s. You may even have seen Mario-inspired games on websites hosting online slots, loading up ‘Plumber’ and finding casino promotions instead. We don’t know how Bernie Sanders feels about online slots, but we suspect that ‘Super Bernie World’ might put a smile on his face, even if we suspect that he isn’t a big video game player himself!
As one might expect from a political propaganda tool, the game is full of pro-Sanders material, and features quotes taken directly from the Vermont senator himself. The very first thing you see in the game – before you even have the chance to jump on a single mushroom – is a quote from Ted Cruz about providing free healthcare to Americans. A cartoon version of Bernie then responds to re-iterate his ‘Medicare for all’ stance, and then for some reason that leads directly into a level that looks like an exact remake of the very first ‘Super Mario’ game. The Sanders sprite looks a little more like KFC’s Colonel Sanders than Bernie to our eyes, but that’s just a minor detail. Once it’s loaded, it’s difficult to resist the urge to play it even if you’re not a fan of the man and his politics.
One of the game’s more controversial (and yet interesting) aspects is the fact that some of Bernie’s enemies are dressed up to look like Trump supporters. The mushrooms appear to be wearing red ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball caps, and someone who looks a lot like Mitch McConnell puts in an appearance at one point, too. We haven’t played the game all the way through to the final level, but we wouldn’t be surprised if we find out that ‘the Donald’ himself is the final boss. Enemies also consist of white supremacists dotted about in Klu Klux Klan hats. Given the fact that Bernie has to jump directly onto their heads to destroy them, we imagine that someone somewhere is currently writing an article about how the game promotes violence against Republican voters. Whether you finish the game or not, once you’re done playing, a message appears on the screen to remind you to exercise your democratic right whether or not you intend to vote for Sanders and to get out and vote.
We haven’t previously come across any significant politics-inspired video games during election seasons before (disregarding the well-known ‘Trump Donald’ website that appeared in 2016), so this game is noteworthy for its novelty if nothing else. It’s also a good opportunity to play a Mario-style game free of charge through a web browser without having to worry about emulation software, so it’s a good way to kill time between meetings at work or on your lunch break. You might want to keep your volume down, so your colleagues don’t notice. They might find out that you’re a video gamer and that you might intend to vote for a left-wing candidate at the same time!
Do we think that the existence of this game is likely to help Bernie Sanders pick up more votes in his quest to become the official Democratic candidate for 2020? Probably not. There’s still a long way to go before Sanders wins the right to take on Donald Trump, and it might be the case that Joe Biden beats him to the punch in the end anyway. One thing we can say for sure is that we’re yet to see supporters of Biden or Trump come up with their own video games to appeal to the gamers, and so we now turn our eyes toward them expectantly. What have you got for us? Donald Trump as Sonic the Hedgehog? A Joe Biden-inspired version of ‘Legend of Zelda?’ Both suggestions sound absurd on paper, but no more absurd than re-imagining Bernie Sanders as an Italian plumber trying to save a princess from a castle. Election season can be a grim and depressing time even if you’re enthusiastic about politics, so having things like this to add a little levity to the proceedings is a blessing. More games, please!