It’s 1990-whatever and I’ve just met a friend on campus. We’re heading to hang out at another friend’s house who lives a short walk from the “downtown” area of our little college villa. On our way there, we stop in the bottle shop for our customary supply of St. Ides. We make our way to the house, brown paper bags in hand. As rounds of drink filter in and among our crowd over the course of that weekend evening, someone turns up with a video. “What is it?” someone sloshes. The purveyor of said VHS tape glances slyly around the room. “A Christmas card,” came the cryptic reply. He pops in the tape, and this is what plays through crackle and static. (Do I need to warn NSFW? I mean, it is South Park.)
That’s when I first met South Park. And that’s when my perception of life and humor changed forever.
Fast forward a few months. College is behind me and I move far away from home for a new and exciting job. I arrange so that I arrive in said new town a week before my apartment is ready, because…well, I don’t know why really. Because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Once I actually saw the hotel I had booked unseen and its placement across from a major highway interchange, a Greyhound station, and a few questionable “stores,” well…I wasn’t worried. (I was young, dumb, and invincible, goddammit!) In that quaint and queasy hotel room, I meet South Park again, this time in the form of the episode “Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride.” I hadn’t been following the news that a little show based on that original Christmas special had been picked up by the then-called Comedy Channel. But once the TV listings in the local paper revealed this fact, I just had to tune in. (Thankfully, the quaint and queasy hotel came complete with a fine compliment of cable channels.)
To this day, the episode’s line “I haven’t seen an Englishman take a blow like that since Hugh Grant!” remains an all-time favorite. (LOL! Christ! I almost can’t stop laughing at it right now. Hold on…hold on….hold the shit on, yo! I gotta go find that episode…)
I stuck religiously with the show through several seasons. It’s wrongness and rightness just made me laugh, and I couldn’t wait to see what topic/people/incidents/current affairs were going to be skewered next. But as my tastes are wont to change every now and again, my affinity for South Park nosedived somewhere around the time I entered grad school (around its 6th season). In reality, I just didn’t have much time to watch television, any television, though me altering my personality from super-fun to super-serious didn’t help matters any. I tried to go back to it every now and again, but something about it just didn’t sit right with me. (I quit watching a lot of animated stuff around this time. It was not good, and neither was I.)
That was a really long time ago, and South Park didn’t care that I had stopped watching, because it became a comedic juggernaut and probably saved Comedy Central a time or two. The show is now in its 17th season, and it show no sign of stopping.
So that’s why, when I first saw South Park: The Stick of Truth, I wondered not only if I could accept it, but if it could accept me. I felt weirdly guilty about returning to a cast-off beloved. I had seen the videos and read the news and everything about it just seemed so unsure to me. Once the game finally came out this past March, I skimmed over reviews (at least some part of me didn’t want to hit an spoilers) and took note of the scores, and people really seemed to enjoy it. And it seemed like something I’d enjoy – silly fantasy, turn-based combat, a cast of familiar characters in a familiar locale. Plus, South Park turned me into a fan of Trey Parker and Matt Stone generally, so why not take a chance and see if this was something worth supporting? With a lull in game releases and a modicum of anticipation, I tentatively put it into the Gamefly queue.
And my god. The return. It has been…Holy. Fuckin’. Hell. SPECTACULAR! And oh…how it makes me laugh! The Stick of Truth makes me chortle, guffaw, and stare at the screen in shock and wonderment. It is just that funny. To me, anyway. Just me. Probably only me. And dammit, that’s alright. But what’s really floored me about the game so far is that playing it isn’t awkward at all in terms of my current non-relationship with South Park. I know most of the characters and I adore interacting with everyone in that crazy little mountain town. I love having that familiarity and it’s great being part of that world, that different but same world all again. And best of all, playing the game makes me want to watch South Park again.
So I’m glad that The Stick of Truth went through all the trauma that it did to get to market, because what we have is a game worthy of the South Park name. Maybe I’m getting a little to profuse with the hyperbolics here, but it’s the truth. And I don’t need a goddamn stick to say so.
In two weeks! Come on back for Part 2 when I actually talk about the game. Y’know, The Stick of Truth. It was gonna be the subject of this here post, but sometimes words…words can be dicks sometimes. But I love them anyway.