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Video Game / Shadow President

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The "Simulation" of Presidential World Power. (Without the checks and balances to worry about).
"I hope you know what you're doing..."

Shadow President is a MS-DOS "Geopolitical Simulation" game, released in 1993, designed by Robert Antonick and Brad Stock. The game's scenario is based loosely around the early 1990's and the Cold War. Also, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait is another scenario included in the game that runs parallel to the main Cold War scenario. The game is somewhat like a graphical text adventure.

In the game, you play as the President of the United States of America and start off with your popularity at 50%, and part of the game is maintaining your popularity so that you can be reelected and therefore "win" the game. The game has a variety of statistics for each region, such as the "quality of life", the average income per person, the populations' primary concerns, and much more. (Not being reelected is effectively "game over".)

To make a long story short, some of your options/objectives are to maintain the budget of the United States, deal with diplomatic crises, send foreign aid optimally, and fight wars as necessary. Of course, you don't have to be benevolent if you don't feel like it and can try your hand at expansionism, such as attempting a take-over of the Americas, or drop some nukes on a few countries, but beware of your approval rating dropping too far or you likely will be impeached or even assassinated.

Received a sequel in 1996, named CyberJudas, which added more game modes and themes of espionage and treason to the formula.

This Game Provides Examples of:

  • Alliance Meter: Your advisers are one way to get a reading of how "for or against" your nation, a country is.
  • Alternate History: Alongside the main Kuwait War scenario, there is a number of alternate scenarios — for instance, one in which Iraq was allowed to conquer Kuwait, and then went on to conquer Saudi Arabia (and Jordan).
  • Anyone Can Die: If the US goes to war with another nation, it is entirely possible for members of your cabinet to die. Commit one too many atrocities, and you can also die.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • The Soviet Union seems to have a "hair trigger" in certain game instances, nuking a country for seemingly implausible reasons. For example, allowing Iraq to conquer Saudi Arabia has a chance of causing this reaction from the USSR; the USSR executes a nuclear strike against Saudi Arabia, likely starting a continental thermonuclear war between itself and Europe and/or China. In fact, any nation with a nuclear arsenal, high ambition and low ethics, has a chance to scorched earth a country if they lose a war in it.
    • The USSR may inexplicably nuke Japan in a game, which may cause the entire world to constantly overthrow the USSR and for a cloud of fallout to settle over eastern USSR.
    • If you feel like being mean and blocking trade with Canada, they may decide to send troops against your country, without considering the possibility of being out-matched.
  • Artistic Licence Law:
    • The balance of power in this game is inaccurate. Short of assassination-of-player or "impeachment" (note the misuse of the term impeach), there is little the courts or congress can do to stop you toying with the fate of the world.
    • Impeachment in the U.S.A. is NOT the same thing as removal-from-power as the game believes.
    • The "power to declare war" is realistically restricted to the U.S. congress; in this game, there is no suggestion that congress has declared war before you order your troops to invade. This is especially noticeable if you send all of your troops into a region like it's a World War and nobody is able to stop you from doing so. Albeit, in recent decades, the concerns over "presidential wars" — contrary to the War Powers Resolution — have risen so it's not completely farfetched.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Nuclear strikes are probably not the best way to end wars or solve problems, and there is a good chance that you will get nuked too. Note that due to this game being open-ended beyond the goal of "stay popular", this trope depends upon what objective the player has in mind for the game.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Recklessly launching nuclear strikes is a good way to cause nations to hate you. The radiation certainly does not help either. Doing this against random countries for the hell of it may just cause you to lose all of your popularity, or worse.
    • Your Press Secretary will often immediately resign after unprovoked nuclear strikes, and the Secretary of Defense sometimes follows suit. In general, advisors may quit on the spot if you make irrational and disastrous decisions related to their fields.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: There are at least two ways to pull this off:
    • Nuke the sweet bejezus out of a small country who possesses no nuclear strike capability.
    • Invade such a country with your armed forces with or without nuking them first.
  • Developer's Foresight: There are possibly many examples...
    • Invading The Falkland Islands (British Territory) and succeeding in conquering it may cause England to execute a Nuclear Strike on the island in desperation.
    • Invading and taking over Cuba has a chance of provoking a similar response from Soviet Russia.
    • Trying to conduct any action on the United States will result in the message "Performing this action on your own country does not make sense. Fortunately, members of the press were not informed of your attempt."
  • Dwindling Party: In a bad situation, your cabinet may turn into this, between resignations, deaths, and the occasional scandal.
  • Endless Game:
    • You keep playing until you get removed from office - whether through losing an election or worse.
    • The sequel averts this in "CyberJudas Gambit" mode, where you have the clear objective of finding and getting rid of the mole.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: While normally a high GNP growth rate for your country is a good thing, letting it exceed 10% when going onto the next year may cause an information overflow error and prompt the game to display garbage data in place of not just your GNP growth rate, but also popularity percentage and even the pie chart showing what percentage of income belongs to what taxes. This makes maintaining your country's economy and your popularity impossible and may also cause other glitches to occur.
  • Invisible President: You are the President - though you are treated to an audio excerpt of George H.W. Bush when you exit the game. Political parties and affiliations are not mentioned within the game, though there are elections which you are required to win in order to have extended terms.
  • Karmic Death: You can suffer one, if you commit too many atrocities and end up assassinated.
  • Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: The different modes of the sequel work around variations of this trope, altering the behavior of your cabinet:
    • "Presidential Simulator" averts this: your cabinet follows your own interests (unless you heavily cross the line, in which case they might resign), and won't lie to you. They might have slight biases when giving you advice, but it's understandable.
    • "Cabinet Wars" downplays the trope: while your cabinet generally works in your favor, and isn't actually hostile, each member has their own agenda and will try to push you towards it. This includes slightly altering the information they give you, in order to persuade you into taking the option they want.
    • The titular "CyberJudas Gambit" is a straight example. Most of your cabinet is allied with you, and follows the same rules as "Presidential Simulator" mode; however, one of them is secretly a traitor working against the USA. The goal of this mode is to find and remove the traitor, while having to deal with regular "crisis" events caused by it.
  • Nuke 'em: One of your options available to you.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Incompetence and cruelty sometimes results in your advisors resigning over "policy disagreements". Considering what can happen to them if things get really ugly, this is probably a good move on their part.
  • Shadow Dictator: Ostensibly you play as the President of the United States. In practice, however...
  • Take Over the World: You can certainly attempt to perform this.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Some examples...
    • You can block trade with anybody at any time; this has the potential of turning an already impoverished country even more so.
    • You can act unethically, by backing rebellions in countries and pulling people's strings to make them commit acts of violence For the Evulz.
    • You can nuke and/or invade anybody (except yourself). By extension, you can Carpet-nuke a country into oblivion.
    • You can conquer a country, install a new government, and conquer them again, for as long as your popularity and infamy will allow.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment:
    • Dropping nukes on a country without nuclear strike capabilities will be met with a sharp decline in popularity, and increase your chances of being assassinated (if Congress doesn't impeach you, first).
    • A ruthless and reckless playstyle will result in your cabinet members resigning in disgust or even being killed by nuclear strikes. Advanced functions associated with their office may become inaccessible as a result.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: You can have a high popularity, while having a low "ethic" (Your moral rating).
  • War for Fun and Profit: Aside from the GDP of annexed territories, successfully winning a war and occupying a country raises your popularity and effectiveness. However, if public concerns are against war, the subsequent drop in popularity will likely destroy any gains you made, but withdrawing troops from an occupied country (bringing them home essentially) may help mitigate this public backlash.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Normally, your cabinet members will collaborate with each other. However, the CyberJudas sequel adds a "Cabinet Wars" mode", which gives each cabinet member a personal agenda; this can lead to two or more members ending up in conflict with each other.
  • What the Hell, Player?:
    • Behaving ruthlessly may cause an adviser to call you out or even resign for your cruel behavior. For example, they may say that they hope you had a "damn good reason" for nuking a country, after taking the fallout into account.
    • Attacking a nation who lacks nuclear strike capability using your own nuclear strike(s) will cause pretty much the highest amount of condemnation from world nations. Even worse, you set a possible precedent for the liberal (read: reckless) use of nuclear weapons by anyone who possesses them. Even the UI disapproves of such an action, especially if you drop several hundred or thousand nukes on the country: after selecting to commence preparations for the strike, the UI just says "Bad idea."
    • While using nukes unprovoked invokes this trope to its most extreme degrees, other more mild actions can cause a similar reaction. Suggesting any action that doesn't make much strategic sense will cause your advisors to question what you're thinking (though at least they don't question your sanity like when you suggest a nuclear strike), and any use of unprovoked aggression will receive the condemnation of at least some of the world and probably your population.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.