Exclusive–Inside Donald Trump: ‘Surgeon Simulator’ Developer Discusses Trump Expansion


Bossa Studios recently released an expansion to the hilarious indie darling Surgeon Simulator, bringing one of the most talked about men in America under the knife. Yes, you can now go Inside Donald Trump.

At the time of this interview, Mr. Trump had already been operated on more than 106,000 times. That’s ten surgeries per minute since the DLC’s release, one every six seconds. For the most part, those surgeries didn’t go so well. As per usual for Surgeon Simulator, most went horribly wrong. Nearly 80% of amateur surgeons weren’t able to complete the heart transplant that puts Trump in the care of your surgeon’s incapable hands.

Nearly sixty billion in-game dollars were spent on efforts to save Trump, about thirteen times his estimate net worth, and ten to twelve times most estimates on the cost to build his now infamous border wall. Out of the nearly 10 billion virtual dollars spent to successfully save Donald Trump’s life, almost two-thirds gave him a Heart of Stone. Significantly fewer opted for the more approving Heart of Gold option.

Results aside, it’s been a fascinating experience to watch the response to the game. Bossa Studios granted us an exclusive interview with Henrique Olifiers and his team about the project.

Please introduce yourself to our readers (especially for those who might not have enjoyed your work before).

We’re Bossa Studios, an award-winning independent games developer in the UK whose games are known to defy genres and bring unexpected twists. Our most famous title follows a wannabe doctor, Nigel Burke, performing science-defying surgeries such as brain transplants in the back of a speeding ambulance hitting potholes, all the way to the emptiness of space in zero-gravity.

Another title of ours is I Am Bread, where you play as a piece of dough trying to fulfill your life’s ambition of becoming toast (a bit more difficult than it sounds), while driving the homeowner hosting your antics literally mad, as he’s convinced his bread has come to life.

First off, and most obviously: Why Donald Trump?

Surgeon Simulator is a humorous and surreal game, one that leaves a lot open to players’ interpretation. Is Nigel truly a surgeon? Do those surgeries really happen or is it all in his imagination? Why does he black out in-between procedures? Is he actually in space, saving the lives of astronauts towards the end of the game?

We immediately found a satirical link between the unlikelihood of Surgeon Simulator’s setting and Trump’s ascendancy to the Republican nomination: Is he for real? Does he really mean all the outrageous things he says? Will he truly build that wall? There’s a lot open to voters’ interpretation.

Some people have forgotten that Trump is a funny guy and has a history of being playful with his personality. You have seen him body-slam Vince McMahon on a WWE ring, and fire Chewbacca from The Apprentice for his bad grooming habits (to which Chewbacca pointed out Trump had a dead squirrel on his head). How many other presidential nominees can say that? He’s the most talked about man in the world right now and a perfect fit for a humorous game! That’s why Trump: simply because it’s unexpected, and therefore funny.

What reaction did you anticipate from players? How did player reaction differ from your expectations, and how much were you right about?

Players took to the Trump update much like they did to the original game: with a good dose of jokes and nonsensical fun. The majority of the videos posted on YouTube are filled with laughter and expletives (mostly due to the absurd difficulty level of the game, which is its hallmark), and they apex when finding secrets we’ve left in there — such as the shrinking of Nigel’s hand if he stabs himself with a syringe (playing on Marco Rubio’s desperate comments on the size of Trump’s hands).

It’s always difficult to anticipate how players will react, especially with an update like this! But our fans from across the political spectrum seem to have taken this in the right way, and seen it for playful joke that it is.

Why did you decide to make the live feedback accessible?

Giving players the opportunity to ‘vote’ with a heart of gold or a heart of stone seemed highly appropriate in an election year. We wanted players to be able to see the choices other players were making, so we made use of the trusty swingometer to track the votes as the roll in.

We expected it to be a daily roller coaster, but turns out the results have been surprisingly steady since the beginning, with 40% gold hearts, 60% stone. Players can read into that what they like, and have the means to change it all if they so wish to.

Perhaps this once we should have taken it more seriously and broken down the transplant results by states or countries – now that would paint an interesting picture!

What does that data say to you as a developer, and what does it say to you personally?

It tells us that humankind should be thankful we’re not in the polling business…

Do you feel that this project is sending any specific sort of message?

We hope so: to keep it light, to laugh a bit more, just like the players are laughing when playing. There’s a lot of anger in the air these days, life should be a bit more fun and people should be able to laugh at themselves a little bit – as Donald Trump has done in the past. Perhaps the Surgeon cameo will make a few folks remember those funnier times?

Are you planning on tackling any other controversial figures? Particularly: Do you intend to create a similar experiment regarding Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, to compare and contrast?

We’ve been watching the Democratic primaries with interest to see who their final choice of candidate would be. Now that they seem to have settled on Hillary, we might add her to the game. That said, Bernie’s gravity defying hair would be a lot more fun in Surgeon Simulator!

Surgeon Simulator itself is becoming a sort of cult classic. What’s next for the team?

We’re hugely proud of Surgeon, a title that came out of nowhere during a game jam (a kind of prototyping session we perform often to come up with new ideas) and has since taken a life of its own thanks to its community. We’re thinking about where it could go next story and gameplay-wise, beyond the obvious evolution into Virtual Reality we’re already working on. It’s difficult to top the weirdness we have come up with until now, but we’ll keep on trying for as long as it makes people smile.

Meanwhile we’ve been hard at work on Worlds Adrift, an online massive sandbox game where players band together to build huge airships and take to the skies to explore a universe of floating islands, while battling other crews for territory control and supremacy. It’s one of the most ambitious multiplayer projects ever created, as it brings together a lot of novel gameplay mechanics to empower players with a huge degree of freedom.

Not an easy one to pull off, but it’s keeping us happily busy!

Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else that you or the team would like to add?

Thanks for your questions. This has definitely been one of the more unexpected sites to talk to about our games! Inside Donald Trump has definitely taken Surgeon Simulator to a new audience.

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.