The creators of South Park have made a pointed comment on how race impacts on everyday life with new role-play game, South Park: The Fractured but Whole, which parodies the Marvel universe.
The game allows the player a number of choices to create their character, from hairstyle and colour to outfit. The player can also decide on the colour of their skin, but this decision directly impacts on the game’s difficulty rating: there’s paler skin for those who want an easier experience, while for players who want to challenge themselves, the darker skin tones are available.
A voice over from the show’s main character reassures players that their choice of skin colour won’t affect combat in the game, but “just every other aspect of your whole life”, instead.
The game’s developers, Ubisoft, told Eurogamer.net that the difficulty rating, or colour of the character’s skin, will directly affect the amount of money they receive and how others speak to them during the course of the game. In July, US employment statistics showed that the gap between black and white unemployment was at a record low, but the black unemployment rate (7.1 per cent) was still far higher than that of white people (4.4 per cent).
The move, which acts as a commentary on the impact of entrenched racism in society, has met with mixed emotions from gamers.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole’s difficulty settings is one of the most genius/funniest/sad things I have ever seen in a game. 👌
— skylenox (@skylenox) September 7, 2017
— GAMINGbible (@gamingbible) September 7, 2017
The game also gives the option to select your gender, and offers the opportunity to be transgender. This, too, impacts the difficulty levels of playing the game.
School counsellor Mr Mackey is on-hand to help players choose their gender. If they opt to be a girl, Mr Mackey will hesitate before calling the character’s parents, who will reinforce the decision.
The character is then given the option to be a transgender girl. If the player selects this option, Mr Mackey warns the character that things will be tougher on her. The character is then set upon by a group of thuggish locals as they leave the school. In 2016, the US saw the highest number of transgender people killed as a result of fatal violence.