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Trey Parker and Matt Stone have decided to change things up for this newest South Park role-playing game about super heroes, which is called South Park: The Fractured But Whole. The new game will now allow players to create a male or female protagonist, and the game will react to differently to both genders.
Kotaku picked up the news from an interview that Matt Stone had with Entertainment Weekly, where he revealed that they had some plans mid-way through development of South Park: The Stick of Truth to include the option to play as a female, but it was too much, too late, saying...
In Stick of Truth we got halfway through the game, and we had narratively come up with the big Girls' Quest halfway through it. [The Girls] were a faction in the fantasy world. And then someone's like, "What if you want to be a girl?" Narratively, it didn't work. We'd have to sh-- can the whole game. So we just left it the way it was. This time, we obviously wanted to add that.
Ubisoft, the publisher of the two South Park games, had also received some harsh criticisms for not allowing players to play as a female Assassin's in Assassin's Creed Unity a couple of years ago. They cited technical issues as the main reason why they couldn't just shoehorn in a playable female character (in addition to having to redo the animations to make sure the sets matched the new rig, they would have had to bring in a voice actress to record all new lines for the character as well, otherwise the female Assassin would sound and move just like a dude).
For Assassin's Creed Syndicate the developers made sure that a playable female Assassin was top priority and that was one of the staple features of the game. For South Park: The Fractured But Whole, the developers opted to do the same, making the option to play as a female character a core component of the game.
But they didn't just want to do a sprite swap, they wanted to make sure that there was a difference in the way the world reacted to your character if you decide to play as a female. According to Matt Stone, he explained to Entertainment Weekly that the boys will react to you playing as a female...
[...] the boys are little boys, because it's really a story about little boys running around. So they don't care about [your character being a girl]? That seems weird. They always seemed to care about it in the show. Are they dumb about it, and they don't know? So you're in hiding? Or do they totally care about that, and totally treat you differently? So we ended up doing those things differently for different characters.
Stone uses the example of The Division as a game where playing as a female is practically negligible other than for looks. He made his main character based on his wife because he thought it would be funny. However, he makes the keen observation that The Division's world is static when it comes to gender recognition and everyone is treated the same. In a way, it's post-apocalyptic equality... right?
Nevertheless, Stone and Parker didn't want gender to be a negligible trait in South Park: The Fractured But Whole. They wanted the world to react to that difference.
It's an interesting approach because a lot of gamers were hoping Bethesda included racial and gender reactions in The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Many gamers felt as if aspects of the lore weren't properly respected when they would create a character, go into a town that was supposed to be racist against a certain group but never make mention of it even if the player-character was from that group.
In this case, Stone and Parker wanted to have the script to recognize the gendered differences, but in typical South Park fashion.