South Park: The Stick of Truth – Color as a Mechanic

In South Park: The Stick of Truth objects that are interactable have a yellow component, typically a knob or handle. On the surface this observation seems to be related to artistic design more so than mechanics. However, due to the necessity of interacting with the game world in order to complete levels and defeat enemies, I argue that using yellow to indicate interactable objects is also a mechanic.

Not all gameplay mechanics need to be explicitly shown to the player via tutorials and pop-up messages, though it can be helpful. At no point in Stick of Truth is there a prompt or tutorial that informs the player that an object with yellow will almost certainly be interactable. Early in the game I found this lack of guidance to be a double-edged sword. On one hand it fueled my interest in exploring the world, specifically discovering what will or will unlock new areas and give me loot. However, in hindsight this was not wholly a good thing. Because I did not know how to distinguish between what objects I could and could not interact with, I wasted time going up to every single door, drawer, and cabinet. In fact, it was not until I was several hours into gameplay and about halfway through the main story that I realized all objects with yellow indicated interactivity. I was shocked and confused that I had not noticed this before. Upon some reflection, I released that I had begun to sub-consciously identify yellow with interactable objects.

I’m on the fence about whether or not I would integrate color in a game à la yellow in Stick of Truth. On one hand it helps the player interact with the environment and cut down on unnecessary faffing about. However, I fear it could streamline the exploration process too much. If I were to use color as an indicator of interactivity in a game I would try not to limit it to only one color. Having multiple colors would make exploration more dynamic as players are not looking for just one sign. Despite the adjustments I would make, I think that in general the use of yellow in Stick of Truth is effective.

Sources

South Park: The Stick of Truth. Ubisoft, 2014. Video Game.

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