It’s always intriguing when gaming bleeds over into popular culture as we saw recently with Ninja appearing on Ellen and Saturday Night Live’s reasonably faithful take on Fortnite. In this week’s episode of long-running irreverent adult cartoon South Park, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone set their sights on Rockstar’s cowboy epic, Red Dead Redemption 2.
Amid a idiosyncratically South Park-esque blend of weed farms, a rare appearance from ManBearPig, fiery demonic rituals, and a suspected school shooting, the episode, titled Time To Get Cereal, revolves around Sergeant Harrison Yates’ desire to return home for some much needed R&R time spent playing Red Dead Redemption 2. He’s systematically interrupted by the antics of ManBearPig. A rather disheveled Al Gore makes an appearance too and it turns out he’s caught the Red Dead 2 bug as well.
In one particular scene the sergeant finally makes it home and we witness a scene that will be familiar to many. In his absence, the sergeant’s wife has been playing on his save game, progressing the story and spending his hard-robbed cash to his dismay. Drawn to drastic action, he decides to start a fresh game and ‘go back to the snow level’.
This isn’t the first time South Park has honed in on gaming culture and the series has a history of conjuring up detail-oriented satire of gaming’s biggest phenomenons as exemplified by its hilarious take on World of Warcraft.
This episode follows suit with details like the PlayStation 4 controller glowing red as it does in real life and the mention of in-game locations (like Horseshoe Overlook, Citadel Rock, Blackwater, Scarlet Meadows), characters, specific mission references, items, and environmental storytelling changes such as the house in Valentine going from under construction to built.
More interestingly, South Park never simply makes fun of a trend, there’s usually an underlying message. In this case, clues are in the reference to excessive time playing the game (the sergeant plans an 18 hour marathon session), addiction to a game at the expense of everything else and a distraction from more pressing and ‘cereal’ concerns like climate change.
In similar news, players have also uncovered a reference to South Park’s ManBearPig within Red Dead Redemption 2 itself. See below. It seems like Rockstar and South Park have a shared appreciation for each other’s work.