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 pogswarts

This can't be serious. As a lot of people have said already, why haven't they gotten mad about everything else "Italian Mob" related?

Avatar image for aia89

don't confuse italians with italian-americans. us italians have nothing against the game and more importantly italian-americans are nothing like italians.

Avatar image for LAboy06

haha protest all you want losers, give this game more publicity, it will be a great game and deserves high sales!

Avatar image for lookin_boy

hello mudda, hello fahdda, lol

Avatar image for DJ_KooPee

Also, just thought of this, we have the game Yakuza as well, so we're not excluding "all of the other 'mafias' run by other ethnic and racial groups"...

Avatar image for The_Gaming_Baby

People like this need to get a hobby.

Avatar image for DJ_KooPee

I thought all Italians were short plumbers who enjoyed jumping on turtles and rescuing princesses!?!?!? Seriously, this is just yet another 'look at me' campaign, tied onto the back of a major game release... Nothing to see here, move along...

Avatar image for SpookyJack

Watch, soon this Andre DiMino guy will make Take 2 an offer they can't refuse.

Avatar image for dylan417

boo hoo, cry me a river..

Avatar image for hyksiu

And why they think the target audience is young people? Clearly the words of video game haters.

Avatar image for Scottopia

From what I've experienced in the demo, it doesn't seem to be any worse than what you would see on The Sopranos. Or Goodfellas. I can see where they're coming from, but that may be a little much.

Avatar image for cain19822004

Right, and they weren't fussed over the first Mafia game, or every other movie that portrays the Italian-American Mafia in a bad light? Please, this is just a publicity stunt!

Avatar image for hyksiu

they must be thinking the same for The godfather