With next week’s release of Mafia III, gamers are buzzing about a new plot twist in one of the most popular franchises in the industry.
In the first two installments of the Mafia series, the main character was a white member of the Italian mob. But in the newest addition, the game takes place in late-1960s New Orleans, and the main character has been turned into a biracial Vietnam War veteran named Lincoln Clay. The racial tensions that plagued the country in that era are a major undercurrent in Mafia III, and Clay is the object of violence and discrimination as he seeks revenge against the mob that betrayed him.
That, combined with the fact that the creator of the game is a supporter of Black Lives Matter and has said derogatory things about the police on Twitter, is fueling speculation that Mafia III could be used to spread a racially divisive message.
Goddamn. The nation’s most vicious gang: Philly cops beat an unarmed black man: https://t.co/apgSg42pRK
— [Beard Needs Care] (@TheCharlesWebb) July 10, 2015
A leading cause of death in 2016: being unarmed and black around cops. #KeithLamontScott
— [Beard Needs Care] (@TheCharlesWebb) September 21, 2016
In a just nation, #BlackLivesMatter wouldn’t be used as some funhouse mirror for white anxiety.
— [Beard Needs Care] (@TheCharlesWebb) July 9, 2016
— [Beard Needs Care] (@TheCharlesWebb) August 9, 2015
The game’s creator, Charles Webb, suggested in a recent interview with Vice that the game would likely provoke scrutiny of race relations, including police departments’ role in that. Vice asked him about the recent police shootings and whether or not that would be reflected in the game, which is expected to be one of the top-five-selling titles of the year. “There’s something like 600, 700 people who have been killed by the police over the course of this year. That’s definitely something that’s been on my mind over the last few months as the body toll stacks up.” Webb said. “That’s not necessarily what’s going to reflect in the writing of this game, but I feel like some people are going to pick up Mafia III and it’s something that’s going to occur to some folks.”
Webb also said his goal is to have players experience racism and, hopefully, be disgusted by it. “We want you to feel a visceral sense of rejection of the language being used by racists in the game.” he said. “We keep talking about systemic racism, but systemic racism is still personal. And we want that to feel personal so that you can react to it.”
The game depicts life in the 1960’s, when it was commonplace for someone to walk down the street and call a black man the N-word. In the game, it’s also completely normal for a police officer in New Orleans to beat a black man, while people walk right by.
While trailers have been released for the game, it’s still unclear how overly political the game is. The big question is whether gamers will play it and come away thinking that Webb was basing Mafia III on a different era, or conclude that it’s making a statement on the state of affairs in 2016. In the latter case, it could become an angry rallying cry for some players.
One snippet of the game that has been seen by the public is the moment where the main character sneaks up on a KKK rally and kills the attendees.
You can shoot up a KKK rally in Mafia III
Now I’m 100% buying this game. It’s lit. pic.twitter.com/nUaZIdSqjA
— Papi Memes (@TheBardockObama) September 29, 2016
This revelation of the KKK scene has actually pissed off some thin-skinned racists, who took personal offense.
At one point in Vice interviewer, the reporter asked Webb about how the portrayal of racism in the game would be received and whether people would connect the game with recent police shootings.
“I can’t necessarily say until it’s actually out,” he said.