Italian-American group protests Mafia II stereotypes

UNICO National calls for release of mobster simulator to be halted, calling it "a pile of racist nonsense"; Take-Two chairman calls game "socially responsible."

565 Comments

Over five years after the "Hot Coffee" Grand Theft Auto scandal, another Take-Two Interactive title has become a lightning rod for controversy. However, the flap is several orders of magnitude smaller than the hidden-sex-minigame debacle, as it involves a single organization accusing a game of perpetuating ethnic stereotypes.

Those wishing to file a protest about Mafia II were directed to Take-Two's complaints department.
Those wishing to file a protest about Mafia II were directed to Take-Two's complaints department.

This time around, the game is Mafia II, due out August 24 on the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Mafia II is in development at 2K Czech (nee Illusion Softworks), the studio behind the first Mafia game back in 2002. The game is set in Empire Bay, a New York-like metropolis, and follows novice mob soldier Vito Scaletta as he rises through the ranks of La Cosa Nostra during the 1950s.

Though similar mob stories have been told before in film (The Godfather, Goodfellas), television (The Sopranos), and games (The Godfather, certain Grand Theft Auto IV plotlines), Mafia II has hit a nerve with UNICO National, the US's largest Italian-American heritage foundation. The organization's president, Andre DiMino, accused Take-Two of "inappropriate and insulting perpetuation of the pervasive and denigrating stereotype of organized crime being the exclusive domain of Italians and Italian-Americans."

"Why would [Take-Two] foist a game on their targeted audience of young people wherein they will indoctrinate a new generation into directly associating Italians and Italian-Americans with violent, murderous organized crime, to the exclusion of all of the other 'mafias' run by other ethnic and racial groups," DiMino said in a statement. "Take-Two is directly, blatantly and unfairly discriminating and demeaning one group to the exclusion of all others. We are demanding they halt release of the game and cleanse it of all references to Italians and Italian-Americans."

DiMino went on to accuse Take-Two of having a "history of perpetrating its violent, sleazy, racist videogames upon an unsuspecting public." He referenced a past controversy caused by a level in the 2002 game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. In it, players were exhorted by an onscreen command to "Kill all the Haitians!" when confronted by a group of machete-wielding criminals from the island nation. Haitian-American leaders took the command as an exhortation to kill all the Haitians in the world and staged protests outside Take-Two's offices in New York City.

In a statement provided to GameSpot, Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick rebuffed UNICO and DiMino's charges. "Mafia II tells a compelling story about organized crime in America - a subject that for decades has been featured in movies, television shows and novels. Neither UNICO nor any other organization purporting to represent Italian-Americans has seen or played Mafia II."

He continued, "At Take-Two, we balance our right to free expression with what we believe is a thoughtful and responsible approach to creating and marketing our products. … We will only release a title that meets our standards: as art, as entertainment and as a socially responsible product. We aim to distinguish creative and compelling story telling that advances artistic expression from subject matter that gratuitously exploits or glorifies violence or stereotypes. I fully and completely stand behind our creative teams and products, including Mafia II."

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 565 comments about this story
565 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for M3ran
M3ran

@Takeno456 how do you know its smaller?just because it is not in the scene doesnt necessary mean it is smaller.

Avatar image for M3ran
M3ran

@kennythomas26 yeah its gonna be badass

Avatar image for M3ran
M3ran

@SanjuroGT yeah its just a video game but dont you think,that it has effect on people in anyway,atall?

Avatar image for fenwickhotmail
fenwickhotmail

Typical videogame condemnation.

Avatar image for BobbinRood
BobbinRood

Recently the Italian American heritage foundation UNICO had complained that the frankly amazing new game, "Mafia II" offends Italians and Italian Americans. These claims are incorrect and serve no purpose. After seeing the comments on the gamespot original article on the issue I can see that Italians who have seen the game and read the article are not offended in any way by the article. People have to just accept that the era of the Mafia was a dark time for the Italian American people. But it did happen and certain stereotype are associated with the Mafia. The game follows these stereotypes in an accurate and entertaining. These stereotypes have been used countless times in films, games and television. One thing that I noticed while reading the article was that such a huge upset has happened over Mafia II but there are many WWI and WWII games which depict the nazis to be horrible and murderous but nobody was complaining that the game made all Germans look horrible or murderous

Avatar image for APCTool88
APCTool88

i'm italian and i couldnt possibly be less offended. i wish these special interest groups would just die already

Avatar image for Chaos_Eagle
Chaos_Eagle

I'm pretty sure Dolmio's pasta sauce contains worse stereotyping than this.

Avatar image for freaknizzle
freaknizzle

@BradBurns I would hardly call money insignificant.

Avatar image for CheesePuffs33
CheesePuffs33

@zombified lol I would buy that Amsterdam game!

Avatar image for deactivated-5ae060efb3bf6

Lets re-write history for these folks.

Avatar image for storm_trooper10
storm_trooper10

Is this a JOKE? I thought the director stressed his team that he didn't want the words 'family, respect, honour, etc' and this is what happens? Why don't they go after the directors of Scarface or Raging Ball. These groups need to stop being arrongant and wake up, beause there loads of media that 'stereotypes' them.

Avatar image for swmeek
swmeek

@ SanjuroGT EXACTLY!

Avatar image for BradBurns
BradBurns

@Frame_Dragger I don't think you understand me. I'm well aware that the game is supposed to be satiricle, but satire is supposed to have a clear point. In Take-two/Rockstar games, the point isn't always so clear, which can be interpreted as bad writing or incompetence. It can come off as the developers trying to get a group offended, which creates controversy and in turn money. That's pretty much been their business strategy for a while now. The problem with this is that "if we do this, we accept the notion of intolerance as an acceptable means for self-promotion and attention. Turning the debasement of human beings into a marketing stunt...and here we are giving approval to this distasteful behavior...being done for the most insignificant of reasons (money)". Also, Rockstar prides themselves in their story telling, and if all you can say about the game is that "it was fun", then that's a failure on their side or at the very least a missed opportunity, don't you agree? p.s. As for my avatar, I have no regrets. lol

Avatar image for rrcp1us
rrcp1us

So... Mafia 2 is bad, but Jersey Shore is totally acceptable?

Avatar image for SanjuroGT
SanjuroGT

ppl just need to learn that its only a video game lol Simpsons has done this a lot more and to a ton of races who cares lol we watch it we all enjoy it its what makes us human capche

Avatar image for SLRMC93
SLRMC93

@Gelugon_baat wouldn't surprise me, if someone gets offended, a million do.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Seems like every NGO wants to take a bite at Take-Two Interactive and its subsidiaries, if the precedents concerning Rockstar's games are to be looked at. What next? Historical interests organizations taking pokes at Firaxis for its Civilization games?

Avatar image for SLRMC93
SLRMC93

MARIO IS MORE STEREOTYPICAL THAN THIS!

Avatar image for tristan1968
tristan1968

My family is Sicilian and this is ridiculous. We are going to drown in our political correctness. People need to take themselves a little less seriously. My 2 cents...

Avatar image for bybeach
bybeach

There were other ethnicties in organiezed crime for sure, for those you have made this particular comment. Seems like Irish, Polish, and to some extant, Jews...Chinese on their turf, and so on The Italians, particularly on Sicily hade one major advantage, they were all ready well schooled for generations, or at least exposed to Dominate Families. The Mafia in Sicily started out as protection from the nobility, and as other organizations of that type, found their way to crime. The IRA is a decent example of that, citing a movie(sorry) The Long Black Friday I think? Classic very hard assed (yet loyal to his subjects) British Mobster controls his world, really as a fiefdom. That is, untill he crosses the IRA. Mabe we look at the world today that is so much more hard core, and freak a little. Upping by an order or 2 the anty on violence, what gangs stand for today. Money is still the prize....

Avatar image for Eazy1891
Eazy1891

wow id never think that a group of italians would do this type of thing...we're usually not the types to let something bother us when it comes to this...but i mean honestly i dont understand if a thing like Jersey Shore doesnt offend you how the hell does Mafia 2? You'd rather have a bunch of losers make a full out of your race than characters made out of pixels make your race look cool back in the day? i mean as an italian neither of them bother me i like jersey shore i think its a funny show and i played the demo for mafia 2 and i liked it and probably will buy it eventually...but i dont let stupid things like that offend me...

Avatar image for shelly2323465
shelly2323465

lol @ italians. people will probably think its cool to be italian after playing the game.Might help you guys make some money. "Forget about it" lol

Avatar image for cothrocky
cothrocky

what's uh matter with you

Avatar image for BallisstiXXX
BallisstiXXX

Random thought: JERSY SHORE! XD

Avatar image for ActionManly
ActionManly

But the "Mafia" is a predominantly Italian organisation.. that's where the words come from.. "Ma Fia" or "My daughter"...

Avatar image for GOR_TAK
GOR_TAK

Good to see Take 2 taking a stand. Did the same organization go after Goodfellas, Casino, etc etc? I wonder if UNICO will be protesting the "Mafia costume" party sponsered by "Mafia II" @ the Chicago Comic-Con tomorrow night? lol

Avatar image for vensalir2
vensalir2

I'm Italian,I played the first mafia, liked it very much and wasn't offended one bit. Mafia is ,unfortunately, very real, and I don't see how creating videogames-movies-novels-etc.. about it offends italian americans or italians. Honestly, tho, I must say there is a slight detail in Mafia 2 that actually bothers me a bit : as far as I know one of the main families portrayed in the game are called the Falcone. Now, Giovanni Falcone was a real magistrate that fought against real mafiosi in the early 1990s, and was subsequently assassinated by them. I believe it would have been kind of 2K to actually do some research before choosing such a name. That said, I can't wait for the game to come out :)

Avatar image for Frame_Dragger
Frame_Dragger

@bradburns: I'm sorry, but like Tsunade (older woman in reality...) it is about satire. I understand your point of view, but these games simply are not meant to be historical records; they're meant to be pure fun and... games.

Avatar image for kennythomas26
kennythomas26

ah well I have this game pre-ordered and can't wait to play it.

Avatar image for KlepticGrooves
KlepticGrooves

*rolls eyes* It's just a game...

Avatar image for ahpuck
ahpuck

This is why i love this country, take 2 has a right to create their game, UNICO has a right to say they don't like it, but at the end, consumers decide. I'm not going to buy it, but not because of UNICO, I'm just not into this kind of games.

Avatar image for SLRMC93
SLRMC93

@redskins2156 man speaks the truth

Avatar image for Col-Neil
Col-Neil

You cant white wash history no matter how much you want to lol

Avatar image for dj_fatlips
dj_fatlips

I guess Unico doesnt like the first amendment

Avatar image for alexLmx6
alexLmx6

so what, they didn't complain about super mario portraying all italians as plumbers... because yknow, all of the italians portrayed in the game are plumbers, so logically that must mean that all italians are plumbers.. when you think about it, mario is actually much more of an italian stereotype, what with his big bushy mustache and the fact that he-a-speaks-a-like-a-this-a... he also moves his hands around alot.. U.N.I.C.O.- super mario is the franchise that is burning your canoli, get your priorities in order.

Avatar image for Elvis4576
Elvis4576

To be brutally honset gangs and organized crime were dominated by the Italians, this game is merely a reflection of what organized crime used to be.

Avatar image for I_am_theOpus
I_am_theOpus

I'm so tired of these "minorities" whining and trying to censor everything. Get over yourselves. If they all had their way we would live in a mindless society. Besides, if you really want to do something good for italian americans and the rest of the universe, get Jersey Shore off the air.

Avatar image for de_graph
de_graph

But I guess the Sopranos is ok, right? Stereotypes are what make life interesting and fun. If you can't laugh at history and yourself, then you're just another person looking for anything to create a stink over.

Avatar image for wiiplay1
wiiplay1

@Raykuza Ok, I understand. My bad. And yes, this kind of thing has been happening for a very long time. It still happens sometimes. It's just not as big of an issue as some people make it to be.

Avatar image for Mysterieux936
Mysterieux936

Would DiMino rather we associate Italians with politically correct, easily offended, whiny pussbags?

Avatar image for LeonK54
LeonK54

I'm Italian and this game doesn't offend me. Its just a video game.

Avatar image for BradBurns
BradBurns

@Spartan-1657: Well, though the characters are fictional the setting is (supposedly)real. It is a very fun game but is the writing clever? In my opinion, no. But then again I don't play it for the writing....but if they're going for clever writing, they should do it better. Note: Take-two owns both Rockstar and 2K. and this is only my opinion and I am well aware that opinions differ.

Avatar image for jarvis008
jarvis008

I'm sure Take-Two are really upset about the free publicity that UNICO are giving their game with their ridiculous complaints.

Avatar image for redskins2156
redskins2156

What they should be protesting is Jersey Shore, that cast is an insult not just to Italians but to all of humanity.

Avatar image for ANumber1
ANumber1

As an Italian American myself, I have no problem with this game and am looking forward to it very much. The Mafia is a historical fact, and the history is rich and interesting to boot. Not doing anythiong with would be a real shame. Besides, I'm much more offended when 95% of the times Italians are portrayed in anything, every other word ends with an 'A'. Where's the outcry there?

Avatar image for Boggy_d
Boggy_d

Are they going to put hits out on Francis Ford Coppola and the staff at Take Two?

Avatar image for CFritzRun
CFritzRun

I'm sorry, they must mean to file a suit against the disease-ridden cast of Jersey Shore. If you're offended by being stereotype then attack the ones who are examples the stereotype.