Love him or loathe him, Donald Trump is a figure who has dominated 2016. His presidential campaign has driven the media narrative this year, with his talent for saying unthinkable things generating headline after headline. He’s managed to utter so many offensive remarks – lurching from one outrageous claim to the next at breakneck speed – it’s been almost impossible to keep up.
That’s why we built Topple Trump. The brainchild of Parallax director and developer Andy Fitch, it’s a direct response to all of that. It’s an awareness-raising tool, a slice of satire and an appeal to common sense. But it’s also something else entirely. It’s an interactive game that’s great to look at and rather a lot of fun to play.
“It all started a few months ago.” Andy says. “I was at home watching the news and – unsurprisingly – Donald Trump was on. And as per usual, he was saying something insanely ridiculous. I thought to myself, he could literally say anything he wants and he’d probably get away with it. Which made me think – would it be possible to tell the difference between true statements and false ones? That was the beginning. Topple Trump was born.”
The concept is wonderfully simple. Players are invited to read statements Donald Trump has actually said throughout his presidential campaign – but with crucial words missing. They must then fill in the blanks by choosing from six possible answers, only one of which is true. To prove they were right or wrong, players are then treated to a relevant soundbite, often taken from a political rally or TV appearance.
The overall aim of the game is to stop Trump getting votes. Every time the player gets an answer right – or, in other words, identifies the genuine ridiculous statement – points are awarded to the Democrats. If the player fails to spot the true inflammatory or ignorant phrase, votes go to the Republican party. In line with the real presidential election, the party that reaches 270 votes (a majority of a possible 538 across all states) – wins.
“We love games at Parallax.” Andy says. “We’re massive fans of Fibbage – and its sequel Fibbage 2 – as well as other games by Jackbox Games, like Quiplash and BombCorp. Initially, Topple Trump was going to be along the lines of Cards Against Humanity, where you piece together statements from different cards, but then we adapted the idea into more of a quiz. If it was going to be fun to play, it had to be really straightforward and intuitive.”
Starting out as a Hack Day side project, the game quickly took on a life of its own. “I was so excited I wrote a lot of the quiz logic myself in the first few weeks. But it needed input from others if it was going to develop it into something special. It wasn’t a client project, so we had to find time and resource wherever we could.”
When it came to development, the site was set up on Expose – our very own CMS we use for the majority of client websites. Reliable and versatile, it meant the focus could be shifted to developing the idea itself, rather than laying the foundations from scratch. Built on top of CakePHP, it also provided the perfect framework for managing the quiz data.
The site can run offline with a little help from the Service Worker API and Google’s excellent sw-precache module. It also takes full advantage of CloudFlare’s recent server push support, which allows priority resources to be transferred from the server in a single round-trip. This is a big win for performance on mobile networks especially, where latency is high. And of course it’s fully responsive, so it works well on all kinds of devices.
People from all over Parallax were able to work on the game at various points. “It’s a huge positive, drawing from such a wide range of ideas and skills.” Every element was carefully considered, with things like the copy, the music and the game-show host narration all chosen or created to complement to the tongue-in-cheek tone of the game.
“The incredible illustrations and animations are courtesy of our design team. Six front-end developers were involved in the build, plus a back-end developer to manage the infrastructure. Our marketing team have contributed massively to content, SEO and PR. We’ve also had valuable steer from one of our project managers – it’s been a real collaborative effort!”
It’s clear from the result this has been a real labour of love. Smooth, sturdy and as professionally produced as possible, everyone has pulled together to make every detail work. It has an obvious political point to make, but the real end goal is to raise a smile and offer people an experience they won’t forget in a hurry.
“It’s much more interesting and interactive than I first imagined, which is great. As soon as I started bouncing ideas off people I knew it had legs. It’s turned out way better than I expected in all areas, which is a real credit to our team. Naturally, I hope it gets shared widely, but I’m happy enough just using it myself – I still really enjoy playing it!”
But will it make a difference to the real presidential election? “I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that.” Andy says. “I think it’s starting to rain on Trump’s parade – finally! We’ll see a hard fought race, but I’d like to think the swing states will lean more towards the Democrats than previous years, just through sheer fear of the alternative!”
Whatever happens, one thing’s for certain. In a world where billionaire celebrities can run for president with campaigns based on fear and division, the truth often turns out to be far, far stranger than fiction.
Are you up for the challenge? Play Topple Trump!