By Stan Rezaee
Its impossible to overlook the bond that South Park has had with video game culture since its early days. With South Park: The Stick of Truth coming out soon, Playing It Old School looks back at the intriguing relationship the series has had with gamer culture.
The series humble beginnings started when Trey Parker and Matt Stone created the short films The Spirit of Christmas (released in 1992 and 1995) which became one of the earliest viral videos. Its popularity lead to it being picked up by Comedy Central to become one of the networks most watched original shows.
After the show gained popularity in the late 90's; the duo would team up with Acclaim Entertainment to create a series of video games based on the series. They would experiment with several different genres in an attempt to develop the right game.
The first game was a first-person adventure that has players take on the role of either Kyle, Stan, Kenny or Cartman and journey in levels based on familiar settings. An evil comet is heading towards earth that unleashes an army of super turkeys, mutant clones, visitors and robots on the town. The game was released for the N64, PC and PlayStation while it was meet with mediocre reviews.
Despite the mediocre review, it never stopped gamers from having good time (plus most of us were younger then 14 at the time).
The next game, Chef's Luv Shack, was a party game were players once agin took on the roles of one of the boys. This was followed by South Park Rally, a kart-racing game that had players race as one of +30 available characters. Both these games were also meet with mediocre to poor reviews from critics.
Withe the exception of a few mobile and flash games, there would not be a real South Park game until the upcoming release of The Stick of Truth. That however never ended the series bond with gaming culture as this relationship would play a key role in several iconic and Emmy winning episodes.
Back in 2005; the Terri Schiavo case dominated the national stage with the argument of ones right to die versus the value of human life. Parker and Stone took a stand with the episode "Best Friends Forever", which earned the series its first Emmy.
Kenny gets a PlayStation Portable and quickly works his way up to level 60 of the game Heaven vs. Hell before being run over by an ice-cream truck. Upon his arrival to heaven, he is told that God created the PSP to find a "Keanu Reeves" who would lead the army of good to victory. However he is revived on earth but is brain damaged and left in a vegetated state. This sets the stage for a moral battle as Cartman wants the feeding tube removed so he may inherit the PSP. Meanwhile Stan and Kyle want to keep Kenny alive so they begin a legal campaign to preserve him.
Besides being an ad for the PSP; the episode presented a clever take on the media circus regarding the case while mocking the "moralist" stance that several conservative politicians took at the time.
Move on to 2007 when Parker and Stone teamed up with Blizzard to develop the most popular episode of the series, Make Love, Not Warcraft. When a powerful griefer (or hacking troll) reigns havoc across the Warcraft universe, the boys must unite under Cartman's leadership. Their courage gets the attention of the admins at Blizzard, who are trying to help the boys in any way possible. With so much on line, the gang may be the only hope for the world . . . of Warcraft.
That same season also featured the episodes Go God Go Pt. I and II, which follows Cartmen attempts of trying to acquire a Nintendo Wii. This includes freezing himself and being awaken in a future besieged by war between multiple Atheist factions.
Most recently the Black Friday-trilogy mocked the vicious consumerist culture of the holidays in the back drops of the console wars in a Game of Thrones parody. The kids have been divided over their choice of consoles while preparing for battle on Black Friday.
South Park has evolved from being a short film to become one of the smartest shows on television and a pop-culture icon. It has also build a strong bond with video game culture that will continue to thrive as the years go by.
Playing It Old School is a column that looks back on classic games while reflecting on the influence it had on video game and pop culture.