Video games are often criticized in the media for being devoid of substance and inducing violence in young, impressionable children. However, there have been more and more games coming out that seek to address significant issues. Some games are even educational (and no, I am not including the Assassin’s Creed series when I make that distinction.) Read about how Mafia III is combating racism after the jump.
Some video games tout many different special features such as immersion, virtual reality, state-of-the-art graphics, an original storyline, etc. But it’s not everyday that a video game can promise to simulate racism in a first-person gaming experience. Much like the other games in the Mafia franchise, the player is a protagonist who seeks to take down a mob. However, unlike the previous games, Mafia III takes place in 1968 New Bordeaux, Louisiana and the protagonist is a biracial man named, Lincoln Clay. The name may be a bit on-the-nose but that doesn’t take away from the gravity of the narrative on racial inequity.
The bigotry and racism depicted in Mafia III is not just some senseless collection of racial slurs being hurled around in this alternate reality. Actual research went into crafting an authentic experience as a person of color in 1968 Louisiana. For instance, the writers of Mafia III looked into numerous films, documentaries, and literature which included things like The Trials of Muhammad Ali and The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975, thereby lending a sense of credibility and immersion to the environment.
However, Mafia III doesn’t just stop at pushing the limits on racial issues. The game also addresses gender issues, as well. While female video game characters are generally sexualized, damsels-in-distress, or both, Mafia III gives its female characters a strong sense of agency and independence. For instance, Cassandra is the head of a Haitian mob and Alma Diaz runs smuggling operations. Although many gripe about Social Justice Warriors constantly whining about a strong female character or protagonist; there are really not that many in the video game world or the film and television worlds for that matter. The public demand for strong female characters will subside when they become the norm and we have more than a few exceptions to cite as examples. This is just one more step forward that Mafia III took.
Mafia III was met with mixed reviews from critics, some of whom claimed that the violence in the game was distracting from the message on racism it was trying to get across. One thing’s for sure, though: it did start a discussion.