In the new “South Park” game, “South Park: The Fractured but Whole,” difficulty is directly tied to the colour of your character.
Though the game features a robust character creation system, it’s immediately overruled by the subsequent difficulty slider. The more challenging you make the game, the darker your character’s skin tone becomes — a not-so-subtle nod to racial inequality.
As South Park’s own Eric Cartman puts it when you make the choice, “Don’t worry, this doesn’t affect combat. Just every other aspect of your whole life.”
Since “South Park: The Fractured but Whole” is a role-playing game — along the lines of “Final Fantasy” and “Skyrim” — the character you create is your main interaction with the game world. Though many games, including the new “South Park,” offer robust character creation options, the choices you make rarely impact the game directly.
“South Park: The Fractured but Whole” flips that, and instead forces a skin tone change on the character you already created based on the difficulty you choose.
Beyond merely reflecting how a player wants to represent themselves in-game, the new “South Park” game is forcing players to think about how representation impacts people in real life (who of course don’t have a choice as to the colour of their skin, or how difficult their life will be).
Though the system is tongue-in-cheek, like so much of the humour of “South Park,” it’s stinging because it jests about a horrific truth: That being a person of colour in the United States has a massive, overarching impact on your whole life. After all, this is a show whose main black character is named “Token” — a nod to the lack of black representation on television.
Like the previous “South Park” game, “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are writing and overseeing “South Park: The Fractured but Whole”; French game company Ubisosft is developing and publishing it.
When it arrives for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on October 17, we expect more biting commentary on modern life through the lens of game systems and tropes.
Here’s a look at the game in action: