The team at D.C. True wanted to make an accurate presidency simulator and they did, complete with triggering a total global crisis by just saying the word “nuclear” to the Soviet Union.
Reviews of this game from the ’90s criticize it for being boring and it is. Part of the problem is that you are inundated with messages, ranging in importance from attempted assassinations to Trinidad publicly condemning the Dominican Republic. A nice feature would have been the ability to filter messages, either by type or by country. It becomes an experience breaking problem when something severe happens. When war breaks out, Shadow President becomes Popup Closing Simulator ‘93. When shit really hits the fan, the game even justifies itself by saying how busy the shadow net is because of recent events 😒
If you try this game I recommend reading the manual. Doing so was what allowed me to engage with it in a somewhat effective way. It was there that I learned that it’s meant to be played in a way similar to many of Paradox Interactive’s grand strategy games — set some kind of overarching goal, pause to issue many orders at once, let your actions play out and observe the results, pause again and repeat.
It’s a lot like a Paradox game in fact. Shadow President is based on an underlying dataset - the 1990 CIA World Factbook - and your actions in the game manipulate that data. The data gets reinterpreted, AI nations take action, your TEAQ is adjusted, and in this way the game moves forward. That’s kind of fascinating considering that when Shadow President was released, Europa Universalis was still several years away.
Is it cyberpunk? Hardly. It’s got a cool name. It’s a bit dystopian in that it’s 1990 and you’re the fucking president, no questions asked. The user interface is vaguely referred to as the shadow net, hinting at some secret computer technology that almost definitely didn’t exist in 1990. But these are surface level details, and the truth is being president isn’t very punk.
Shadow President is an ok game if you already like grand strategy and watching numbers go up and down 👌🏻
Would you like to know more? Read the dox, watch the vod, message artist Charlie Athanas on Twitter.