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."

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
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

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 Delius

"stereotype of organized crime being the exclusive domain of Italians and Italian-Americans" Um.... what? Exclusive domain? How many other generally national organized crime organisations are commonly known, The Yakuza, The Triads, Any major MC in North America, I could go on, but come on, this is an extremely weak argument.

Avatar image for Cillerboy

they shud get over it its just a game

Avatar image for Draken_Domingo

Really, now the Italian-American's scream 'RACIST!'? About a subject that's been seen all over the media for years? This is almost as bad as when RE5 was being racist because you shoot black people in Africa...I mean give it a break, this game has been in development for years and they're just noticing it now? Typical mob mentality... *sigh* The saddest part is knowing if Mafia 2 was anything else besides a video game, like a movie or a tv show or hell even a book, everyone would turn a blind eye...

Avatar image for robayeit

@ Darth_SupleX Wasn't that game called GTA San Andreas

Avatar image for mad-at-nintendo

wow i love when the american legal system dirctly violates the 1st ammendment

Avatar image for robayeit

Obviously dont watch hollywood movies, where, apparently America always saves the day, and every1 in the world is useless. Every1 else knows its the other way around, lol

Avatar image for rht992

i take it no one told them about China town wars?

Avatar image for Hikiera

from someone with an italian ancestory. this is BS. we can all agree italians that lived in america (not all italians of course but quite a few) were linked to a mafia involved in organised crime. What happens in the past does not reflect future generations and making a game about soemthing that happened so many years ago no matter how you choose to express it is not racist. If they were going to do it on the Russian mob should we complain as well? Some people just like to be difficult.

Avatar image for Blood_Diamond

"We are demanding they halt release of the game and cleanse it of all references to Italians and Italian-Americans." So that means we demand you stop the game altogether... FAIL

Avatar image for Happy-Screamer

Trying to get money from a company. Everyone wants to sue everyone.

Avatar image for tehepicpwnzor

Thumbs up if you agree that this lawsuit is nothing short of absurd.

Avatar image for tehepicpwnzor

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Avatar image for Uesugi-dono

Man, what would these organizations do for press without video games? How would they justify their existence and the dues they collect?

Avatar image for gamerpipe

So how they should portray an Italian Mafia? as Mexicans? lol I guess these are the same people who protested Jersey shore. They should stop taking games and TV too seriously.

Avatar image for JayMezzy

Ppl are being a little too sensitive. It's a videogame! The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Sopranos came out...I didn't hear anything about them getting bad pub from race based groups saying "that's not right." Its a proven fact that everyone isn't going to agree with everything you do. You make this move..."we don't like that!" make that move, "we still don't approve of that!" Tough, deal with it or don't play it...simple as that. Life is about choices...and it's yours. This is a videogame at the end of the day for crying out loud! Don't like it, don't play it. I'm gettin' it!

Avatar image for StJimmy15

Nobody who plays these games changes their view of a certain race (is being Italian really a race or a nationality??). If anything it just gives us some interesting possibilities as to how the Italian Mafia (yeah it exists) works. er, worked?

Avatar image for Darth_SupleX

Silly companies, they should release games about dumb American guys beating the cr*p out of themselves eating burgers with milkshakes and wearing lumberjack shirts. Gosh, balance the scales u_u

Avatar image for gamedude2020

lol the mafia protesting

Avatar image for DrKill09

I didn't see them complain when a million versions of the Godfather game were released.

Avatar image for ThaDirtySouth

Apparently this "President" has already spoken out about Jersey Shore, good for him, he's got way more time on his hands than I thought he did. << LINK REMOVED >>

Avatar image for ThaDirtySouth

They complain about this game yet what season of Jersey shore are we in? Everybody wants a free ride these days I swear.

Avatar image for rangeraa

some people are waaay too sensitive... I guess it's alright for a movie to do it..but morally wrong for a videogame.

Avatar image for Un4givingAsault

Jersey Shore, enough said lol.

Avatar image for Count_Conrad

More wasting of precious time. Just let them sell it, you're not going to die because they just released a game.

Avatar image for robalemcl

i hate things like this, they dont have hatred for italian-americans so its not racist, its like when people said resident evil 5 was racist because they portrayed africans as black

Avatar image for poorisaac

This group should worry less about Take Two's Mafia II and a little bit more about The Situation's GTL.

Avatar image for DemonNeno

Hahaha! So let me get this straight. We possibly have THE best Mafia game EVER on our hands and Italians are shamefully disappointed in this? Listen up Bambinos - Let the record show that through Chicago, New York, Florida and Vegas, all you find is Italian Mobster history that is a blood haven, Speakeasys and hideaways. If you are SO god damn against your Italian-Mobster ties, break down every wall, tear up every article and "cleanse" peoples' brains before you jump the gun (as usual?) and attack (SURPRISE!) these good fellas for producing such a beautfiul piece (not as in a gun) of art (and it aint stolen!). Seriously, though. This game looks amazing! I Absolutely loved the first Mafia, especially since I'm a gearhead and enjoyed the physics & attention to detail with the vehicles. The storyline was phenominal and I can only imagine that I will be bound to find the same enjoyment out of this new game! Can anyone say Chevy Bell Air with 3 on the Tree?! Please??

Avatar image for LoneWolves123

Ok, have it their way. Pull every Italian-American character/reference/cliche out of the game, and from every game you create now and in the future. You'd quickly find that they'd be up in arms over how Take-Two is non-inclusive and descriminatory. UNICO would have you imagine that Italian-Americans never existed except as saints and heroes. Hang in their Take-Two; fight the good fight! I applaud you for taking a stand against self-serving special interest groups such as UNICO who believe they have a right to control art and expression.

Avatar image for onthe_dl

i think they should be more concerned about what jersey shore is doing to italians rather than a fictitious video game.

Avatar image for steve4123456789

Mario stereotypes lol, whats worse, the mafia, or being called Mario.

Avatar image for Saint_Francis

Another example of people in power having convenient priorities. Everything that Don DiMino from UNICO International is accusing Take-Two and the video game industry can be said about world religions too; Roman Catholics being one of the worst examples, of which I am one. You'd think campaigning to correct the problems that occur IN THE REAL WORLD on a global scale for thousands of years would precede those found on a computer screen.

Avatar image for positivebalance

can't wait to get this game. too bad i have to wait. :(

Avatar image for Yammer55

It's a video game! Jesus, where were these groups when the original Scarface was released? Or the Godfather? Nah, let's pick on the video game companies because they are the reason the world is messed up. Hey, did you know that Hitler played the very first Grand Theft Auto? Yeah crazy huh

Avatar image for TheCyborgNinja

I hate all these whiny groups. Get the **** over yourselves! You don't hear Germans whining about being portrayed as Nazis in everything, and that's much worse. I hope all those jerks die. What's the most well known organized crime group? The Italian Mafia. It is what it is you jackasses.

Avatar image for Pumpkinhead3

this is hilarious. I bet they are so fired up is because crap like jersey shore makes italian americans look bad

Avatar image for gimlifn

what a joke. these organizations need to get a life. Its like the lady who spilled McDonalds coffee on herself and blamed it for being hot. Sadly she won her case. what is this world coming to?

Avatar image for Frosty192

get out of america then if you dont like it seriously...

Avatar image for Sorciere_basic

fuuhgget about it...

Avatar image for Zzombielemur

I almost suspect Take2 of paying them. This gets them soooooo much free ad space.

Avatar image for 2bitSmOkEy

What a joke. Luckily all these clowns have done is get more publicity for this game and absolutely nothing else. I'll never understand how some people can get offended so easily.....

Avatar image for hollow56771

They think a game that takes place in the 1940's is racist just because the gang is Italian?? Stupid, almost as stupid as the controversy over the Resident Evil 5 trailer.

Avatar image for kegmiester

Where theres smoke, theres fire. I think its just gone down in histroy that the mafia in the depression era consisted of mostly Italien Americans and its become practically synomous. It'll be very hard to buck this trend, especially if we're saying the depression era, al copone, all the movies etc going with it. Besides the public aren't stupid to immediately associate every Italien American as gangsters and crooks.

Avatar image for Crasical

I think it's all one big scam to get Mafia 2 more publicity.

Avatar image for JangoF-76

Where has this dude been for the last 2 decades? After The Godfather movies, Scarface, Goodfellas, Casino, The Sopranos, Oz...well the list goes on. It's a little late to start worrying about Italian-Americans being associated with organised crime isn't it. Sorry Andre, that ship has sailed!

Avatar image for deactivated-5cbe0795eed3c

I think Italian Americans have more to worry about with Jersey Shore than Mafia II. What would you rather be considered? A bunch of spoiled drunks or a "I dont take s*** from" nobody wise guy? I'll take the idolization of Joe Pesci any day over some douche like The SItuation.

Avatar image for sagameister3

Those people don't HAVE to play the game, there are worse stereotypes out there( jersey\licous shore).

Avatar image for wop9

Lets face it, this game doesn't denigrate Italians any more than Goodfellas or Sopranos... if anything, it romanticizes and glorifies us. Who hasn't dreamed, at least a little bit, about being a wise guy?

Avatar image for Heshertonfist

"A pile of racist nonsense" they say. Doesn't matter what you do anymore, someone will take it personally and try to sue you.

Avatar image for M3ran

@Shanks_D_Chop no mario and luigi arent racist but what do you say to the first prince of persia that the main character was blond,and the bosses had a turban on their head!!isnt that racist atall to you?it seems to me that it is