South Park: The Fractured But Whole includes a difficulty slider based on race, as well as game mechanics based on racism. The upcoming RPG will also include a transgender protagonist, making it one of few game that include playable LGBTQ characters.
Ubisoft, the company behind the game, had already confirmed that South Park: The Fractured But Whole will include a female protagonist option.
Could South Park: The Fractured But Whole Actually Address Racism Right?
As first reported by Eurogamer following a recent hands-on with South Park: The Fractured But Whole, the game’s difficulty slider is apparently based on the colour of the player character’s skin. A character with lighter skin will have an easier time than characters with darker skin, with South Park character Eric Cartman saying “Don’t worry, this doesn’t affect combat. Just every other aspect of your whole life.”
A Ubisoft representative confirmed to the publication that the race of the character will affect interactions with NPCs as well as the way that the player character can earn money. However, Ubisoft later told GamesRadar that skin tones are just cosmetic and don’t actually affect content, so it’s unclear exactly how the game takes skin tones into account.
The South Park television show has been slammed in the past for its depictions of race, saying that it takes things too far in its attempts to offend everyone, regardless of their ethnicity. The conflicting information from Ubisoft make the actual content unclear, but many actually seem positive about how the game can tackle race.
Racial issues are often included as allegories in games (e.g the treatment of elves in fantasy RPGs) but South Park seems to be tackling the issue head on and could get people thinking about racial privilege and the issues faced by black and brown people in the world. It’s too soon to say whether South Park: The Fractured But Whole will get things 100% right and that it won’t offend, especially given the show’s history, but fans remain cautiously optimistic at the moment.
Many also seem positively intrigued by the confirmation that the game will include playable transgender characters as well. Players choose their character’s gender by speaking to school counsellor Mr Mackey, with male, female and “other” being possible options, as shown at 44 minutes in at the clip above.
While it’s unclear what “other” is exactly and whether the game explicitly allows for non-binary and genderqueer characters but it does allow you to play as a transgender girl. After picking a female character, Mr Mackey will ring their parents and then players have the option to choose whether they are a cisgender or transgender girl.
Given that the game may already change based on race, it would seem unusual for it not to include commentary on a character’s gender identity beyond the awkward but relatively conversation in Mr Mackey’s office. Again, given the TV show’s horrific transphobia in the past, it’s understandable why many may have their eyebrows raised. But the game will be able to prove doubters wrong (or right) next month.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole will be released on October 17 on Windows PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
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