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."


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."

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Avatar image for Maim00

You'd think they would take on Jersey Shore before a videogame...

Avatar image for Jd1680a

I am 50% italian, my family came from Sicily, and I do have an uncle named Vito. Should I go raise hell because of this game, probably not. This game also showed Irish and Chinese, with the use of stereotypical language. A small group of people doesn't represent everyone as a whole.

Avatar image for geokes76

"organized crime being the exclusive domain of Italians and Italian-Americans" Even though in the game they also have Chinese and Irish gangs -.-

Avatar image for steven141

Who are they to demand anything? They must be mad if they think they would suddenly cancel a game not long before release when much had been spent to create it. Idiots.

Avatar image for metakirby14

By god. Why do you give a **** about a unreleased game. From the trailers, it doesn't seem stereotypical at all! Jesus, it's like people have lost their senses.

Avatar image for penguinruler82

WHO THE F*** CARES?!?!?! It's a video game. Just play it, enjoy it (or not if it's a bad game, idk, haven't played it yet) and move on! The smallest things set people off these days. God forbid something makes someone angry nowadays. We should just protest everything I suppose.

Avatar image for saruman354

And UNICO has said nothing about Jersey Shore?

Avatar image for hamabu

well this game is about mobsters, not about italian mobsters, because there is italian-mobstes, american -mobsters, chinese-mobsters, black-mobsters and half-mobsters (not completely a mobster, like Bruski for example)

Avatar image for Ghosthunter54

"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" I guess the UNICO guy forgot about the Asian mob, the Irish mob, the black immigrant mob, and the one other mob in there (don't know what race they were). There were Italian Mobs in the 1950s. It is not, and will never be racist to tell a story about Italian Mobs in the 1950s. The game never implies all Italians are mobsters anyway. Then again, the people who claim racism for things that are obviously not racist have some self-esteem issues, imo.

Avatar image for Kwenza-Sugafoot

what? wtf are they complaining about? why do people make a big deal outta EVERYTHING?! if you don't like it,don't play it. God knows how many years,and how much time & effort went into the making of this game. I agree. The story dictates that mobsters should be there,so they should. It's called "Mafia II",what were they expecting? Black and Indian protagonist & antagonists? good grief...

Avatar image for weapon_d00d816

People need to stop giving a crap about racism, stereotyping, etc. It wouldn't be a big deal if we didn't make it as such.

Avatar image for ErrolJames

Playing this game, and I must say it's pretty racist. It uses the segregated times of the 40's and 50's to spread racist messages. I guess some people don't want to move on from the "good ole days." I wasn't impressed when a character is crying about how all blacks just smoke dope and kill each other. It's also homophobic and sexist. I can't believe they got away with it.

Avatar image for stEElyDaN909

Nintendo are sleazy, racist bigots. The way they portray Italians is NOT realistic and incredibly offensive.

Avatar image for steve236

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gamer.

Avatar image for kingcam07

They make a good point actually.

Avatar image for mortal1012002

If the story in the game calls for Italian mobsters, then why shouldn't it be in there?

Avatar image for Sig12047

I am IM and it's not a problem for me. I like those movies. The older crowd has good reason to be mad since they were effected by it or lived through the period.

Avatar image for CaoSong

After reading this article... I want to play the game even more. Games that get groups to rally against them are usually the best games after all =P Thanks UNICO for making Mafia II even more popular =)

Avatar image for Jackmac36

@egres122 Oh, you mean that bunch of crap? Why is it that RE5 is racist, but RE4 is totally fine? White guy vs Spaniards = OK, white guy vs Africans = HORRIBLE HORRIBLE RACISM!!! Same goes for practically any CoD and MoH game, and Mafia II.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c071310a7c36

@Jackmac36 Wait, u dont remember the whole, "white guy killing a bunch of africans" issue there was before?

Avatar image for Brilliant_R

@BigBigR I never actually DID make up my mind about how I feel about it. That's why I was asking people who HAVE played the game if it would make sense for me to feel offended or not (being that I don't see myself playing this game anytime soon), because I never actually said I felt offended by it. And besides, you just answered part of my question anyway. At the end of my post, I said "Or are people just blowing things out of proportion?", and you pretty much explained that very well at the end of your post.

Avatar image for BigBigR

@Brilliant_R I've got an idea: Play the game. THEN make up your mind about how you should feel about it. Besides, this whole thing is ridiculous. Lets ban all WW2 games, because if not everyone will think Germans are all Nazis. :S What are we, idiots? That was back then, this is now, and UNICO National should be thanking Take Two for making Italians look total badasses. Well, some of them.

Avatar image for nemt

The bigger issue is how lousy the game is.

Avatar image for Reiken37

This isn't racism, this is relatiy and history. The biggest mobsters were generally italian and thats just how it was. Dont' try to block this piece of your heritage from the world, embrace it. I'm part italian and I actually think it's cool that Italians were once the rulers of the crime world. Also thats like saying "Oh god! The guy in this game who robbed the gas station was wearing a cross! Lets sew them and say that they were being stereotypical to Cristians."

Avatar image for HandDrawn627

Thank god Take-Two is standing up for themselves and telling them to pretty much shove it. Racism is everywhere, and god forbid a company (that has the right) creates a game (a very good one at that) that tells a story of an Italian mobster. Considering in order to get into the mob you had to be of an Italian heritage, sometimes both of your parents had to be Italian. Not to mention in order to even get into the mob, you had to prove yourself by doing a "test", usually taking act in some sort of murder. Not to mention at the very least show willingness to commit acts of murder when told too. So they can cry all they want about associating Italians with acts of violence and murder, but the fact is: in the 50s, that is what most of the Italian community did in order to survive. When you joined the mob, you gained protection, as well as enemies.

Avatar image for Glade_Gnarr

Getting italians back on the badass mobster side should be a favor after jersey shore.

Avatar image for Brilliant_R

Well, considering I'm partly-Italian... what do you guys think I should feel about this? I mean, I dislike stereotypical stuff like Jersey Shore... should I hate this too? Or are people just blowing things out of proportion?

Avatar image for jramirez23

Jersey Shore.

Avatar image for Jackmac36

@egres122 what are you talking about? Resident Evil 5 was totally fine, there was no racism in it at all.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c071310a7c36

Anyone else think that the youth of america can only be corrupted if they buy the M-rated only able to buy if you are 18 game? Sure kids can get their hands on it, through other means, but if kids wanna play a shooter that may/may not portray Italians in a bad light that is not up to the game companies to stop. Its resident evil 5 all over again.

Avatar image for meralonne

FarmFresh has clearly never heard of the Triads.

Avatar image for OmniLord

(cont. from previous post) My mom made sure I knew that a majority of what I watched on the TV was fantasy and not real. She explained that while it was okay to like the action of SOME action star kicking the butts of a gang mostly manned by black people or mexicans, that it didn't mean all the people of those races were gang members. She made sure that I knew I couldn't fly off the top of the building like Superman. She explained that women weren't the open holes they're protrayed to be in erotic films. She made me understand that I couldn't hit my sisters with a sledgehammer and they'd make a funny accordian-like sound. If people are worried that something is going to influence their kids in a bad way, then do the responsible thing and make sure they don't see it or play it until they're at an appropriate age. It's their responsiblity, not Take-Two or some other kind of production company. If you're a good parent then you'll raise a kid that can separate fantasy from reality. If not, then you just need to give your kids up to someone you can.

Avatar image for FarmFreshDX

Maybe they're right. Let's make a game about the African mob. Oh wait, there is none. How about the Chinese mob? Oh, none there either. Fact is, the Italian mob is a widespread, well known, well used group, and it has been that way since The Godfather. These people are only interested in crying racism because that's the thing to do these days. They either want fame or money, and in this case probably both. I don't even think anyone should report this story, since giving this clowns media attention is exactly what they want. The cry of racism is so meaningless now in America because every moron with no decent argument against something they don't like now says the other side is racist. As Valve would say, cry some more.

Avatar image for OmniLord

(cont. from previous post) I mean what would have happened if some groups got Final Fantasy 7 canned saying that it sent a message to boys to where girls' clothes? I believe video games are just as influential on American culture as movies, but some movies really pushed the envelope and became classics that almost everyone knows, or has at least heard the titles to once in their life. Which I think is pretty good especially if that movie came out something like thirty or so years ago. But back to my original statement; It's parent's job to raise their kids. You can't be doing a good job if you're out protesting things all the time.

Avatar image for OmniLord

Argh. I'm getting so tired of these groups getting their panties in a twist over crap like this. Not just this Italian-American one but all groups that raise a huge fuss over SOMETHING because of some stupid reason that it will corrupt the youth of the next generation. You know what? IT'S NOT ANY COMPANY'S RESPONSIBILITY TO RAISE YOUR CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you don't like something then keep your kid away from it until they are at an age to resonably understand why it's like that. Going with this whole Italian thing, if they had managed to get movies like The Godfather or The Goodfellas to stop production for those same reasons I believe it would have altered American culture, I do. Media is a big part of America, all of it. From books to television to movies and video games.

Avatar image for ggregd

So Italian is a race other than caucasian now? Like non-Native American hispanic? Let me know when Irish is a seperate race so I can get on the victim bandwagon too.

Avatar image for runenakken

The Italian segment of organized crime, la Cosa Nostra or the Mafia as it is called, is widely acknowledged as real and something that lawmakers invest huge sums of taxpayer money to bring to justice. A video game, just like a book, a movie, a song or any creative media of expression is in our liberal democracy free to use as theme, story or backdrop as they please. It's really not their statement in so doing that all Italian-Americans are gangsters or that Italy is a country built solely of extortion, money laundering and wacking Giuseppe's and Giovanni's so that they can sleep with the fishes! Organized crime, like it or not, fits into the video game category exceptionally well and 2K Games have all the right to make such a game, as here in Mafia II.

Avatar image for piyush18

Its just a game... people play and forgets... dont know what problem they have...

Avatar image for lamprey263

why are people commenting about sueing and lawsuits, there's nothing of the sort going on here, these people are being critical about the game (though I don't agree with those criticisms), I can't recall any lawsuit on racial or ethnic issues, just people complaining and being critical, everyone said there was a lawsuit as well against RE5 for the racial issues but as far as I know not one ever came up, just people complaining, besides, there's not really grounds for one to have a lawsuit for things like this

Avatar image for GOR_TAK

Good thing "UNICO" didn't show up @ the "Mafia II" costume party @ The Chicago Comic-con this past Saturday night. Sexy costumed "gangsta" girls, free fedora party hats, lots of wannabe be Sopranos posing with tommy guns along with all the other non-mafia cosplayers. UNICO would have been a total buzzkill!

Avatar image for squidracerX

@ StJimmy15 yeah they are much smaller and weak sauce than they used to be, but the mafia is still out there, i posted a link to this article as proof. << LINK REMOVED >>

Avatar image for squidracerX

@Delius hahaha yeah i forgot yakuza, send them a copy of that with a note that says "shut up ya babies" on it :)

Avatar image for ikari-leader

As a descendant from Italians I have to say I hate stereotypes too, IMO we should kill them all and make it look like an accident. I'm off to eat some meatballs.

Avatar image for gbrading

This is a bit bizarre. Afterall, the first game used exactly the same Mafia cliches, and nobody batted an eye. I can see why they would complain, but they might as well also complain that The Godfather films are reinforcing stereotypes.

Avatar image for JKMadu619

Ah, so featuring any ethnic other than pure white cultures is sueable now? Everyone wanted equality, we have plenty of games about white thugs and killers, and now we have one about itallians and... BAM LAWSUIT. It's apart of your cultures past. Just as for some germans Nazis were and how for some americans slave driving or being a slave was. History lacks glam, but it's based on truth. "Targeted at young people" Rated M for mature. My parents would probably buy it for me if I wanted it, but that would be their choice. It's the parent's choice about what their children do. I fully well know that if I play a game that my parents would not want me to play, I'd be whipped red. - Justin

Avatar image for Fed__X

They need to make a Fillipino Head Hunter game next. So maybe I could sue?

Avatar image for Fed__X

This is all Snookie's and the Fist Champs fault.

Avatar image for Shardz7

Oh, come on already over here! Now everyone is jumping on the ACLU bandwagon...just to be annoying is my guess. You never heard them complain when Goodfellas or The Godfather came out...why start now? The reason why people get so offended at stereotypes is because they are 95% accurate and they don't like to think they are that shallow. We are creatures of habit and this includes communication patterns that are extremely identifiable to the eyes and ears. The very same people who criticize these games have no sense of humor and probably tie into the stereotypes exactly. People have to learn how to laugh at themselves and loosen up a bit cause it is what it is; fun and laughs.

Avatar image for julle23

lol, lots of games and movies based on the the italian mafia have been made. why is mafia 2 so different? they probably don't know either since they haven't even played it yet.

Avatar image for kvan33

Ah, shuduppya face!