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 GameBeaten

No matter what you do, someone is bound to be offended by something. At that point its all about "me me me" in their mind and they ignore what the real problem is. Then you got people joining them even though these people have no idea what the real ****ing situation is. Finally after many months on how the story has been portrayed you may or may not come out on top. During the whole time of the "scandal" other more meaningful problems are ignored.

Avatar image for BradBurns

@Frame_Dragger: They do try to pass it off as clever writing sometimes and its simply not up to snuff on many occassions...

Avatar image for Shanks_D_Chop

I mean, what about Mario? And Luigi? That's racist.

Avatar image for Microsteve

some people really need to get a life :lol: haven't these protest groups got anything better to do?

Avatar image for Dynamo11

@BradBurns It's meant to be a satiric and Ironic portrayal.

Avatar image for Dynamo11

Huh, making alot of fuss about nothing

Avatar image for Frame_Dragger

Ha! Tough luck to the la cosa nostra. I cannot properly express how little I care about the complaints of this group. @Takeno458: It's been utterly overwhelmed by the Russian crime syndicates and South/Central American drug cartels. They no longer exist outside of some portions of Italy as a political and social force.

Avatar image for Takeno456

@squidracerX Good article, I guess the mafia is still alive. Its a lot smaller but its still around.

Avatar image for ANTHONYMVP2U

i hpe it get work out soon*****

Avatar image for Rhino53

Well, I guess the UNICO, a group I've never heard of, got the attension they wanted

Avatar image for x-2tha-z

What's next? Germany demanding all WW2 games are edited so the developer can remove all reference to German Nazi's?

Avatar image for Spartan-1657

This is so damn bogus, it honestly blows me away how big of sissy-babies a particular group of people can be. What did they do? Get the Italian soccer team to cry about this now? Maybe cuz they bombed so bad in the World Cup, they realized their diving is over-looked now and move on to something else to get attention. Seriously, its a game. And as stated in both the article and Take Two's rebuttal, its been done in television, films, novels, etc... grow up, UNICO...

Avatar image for jamyskis

@Noah-Phoenix That's not the best irony of the whole thing. The word "mafia" itself is not used by any known criminal organisation in the USA. The Italian mafia calls itself the cosa nostra (our thing), the Russian mafia calls itself the bratva (fraternity), the Japanese mafia calls itself the ninkyo dantai (something like 'organisation of chivalry'). However, the word "mafia" is itself from old Italian meaning "agressiveness, boldness, bravado". So it's not unreasonable to make an automatic association with the Italian mob.

Avatar image for The_crapgamer

About time other cultures get fair treatment. So often all you ever hear about are the blacks. Even though there are people like me, Italian, who get seen as Tony Soprano and as a gangster. There are and were other ethnicities that were in organized crime.

Avatar image for GunBladeHero

What!? So it was because of Mafia 2 that I started killing the guys that were wronging me!? I will get Take-Two for that! The smart little....

Avatar image for BradBurns

The problems with games who attempt to make "history-lessons with fun game mechanics" like these, is that they rarely have quality writing and what they try to pass off as real American history, just comes off as insulting caricatures sometimes. For example, the character Irish in Red Dead Redemption is not clever, funny, or informative about the struggles of the Irish who were forced to work with the Chinese on the railroads(basically as slaves, really), instead he just IS the Irish stereo-type of that time period made into a character, which I find was a bit out of hand. They pass characters like that as a sort of "history lesson" but they're actually just back-handed critiques that attempt to show players the "darker" side of American history through potentially insulting and stereo-typical characters and roles and therein lies the problem. I demand better writers!

Avatar image for jamyskis

Of course, nobody paid a blind bit of notice when The Godfather (the movies and the games), Goodfellas, Analyze This, The Untouchables and Gangsters:Organized Crime came out, all films and games which rely on stereotypes of Italian-Americans. I smell a PR guru at work here.

Avatar image for damodar_thade

I thought italians where caucasian? dont they mean its discrimination not racist to assume all italians are in the mob? :-s Either way this is alot of garbage what is it pick on the video games decade now everyone has done claiming the TV made there kids turn into crack addicts and murderers?

Avatar image for MuffintopX

Cleanse all the Italians!

Avatar image for Noah-Phoenix

They have a point that not all Mafia's are Italian or Italian-American, there are and have been more other ethnic group Mafia's in history than those depicted in the game. But this game is about the Italian-American Mafia in particular. What are they going to do - set it in America, call it Mafia 2, but make them Russian? No one will want to play that as its the Italian-American Mafia that are the most recognizeable Mafia figures, and therefore easier to sell to gamers as an idea or theme. No one in their right mind will ever think that every Italian-American are or in the past were all Mafia. Its just an attempt to get their small minded opinions heard, as no one listens to them normally. And unfortunately its worked.

Avatar image for Keitha313

People seem to forget the difference between a game and reality, It's all about trying to make news like which they are doing right now it saddens me that Gamespot would take this seriously no offence ment to Gamespot... But i personally think what they are saying "Its a big pile of racist nonsense" Is making something out of nothing kind of pathetic.

Avatar image for karnis

more of this crap it's a game & organized crime has been around for a long time. this is stupid

Avatar image for Keitha313

Oooh ooow the Mafia don't approve of this game i don't think.

Avatar image for Stigmaticn

Of course it does not follow that all Italians are mobsters, but come on... if you have a beef with this perception I suggest you take it up with your local Mafia Don, not with a game studio. The arrogance and brutality of the golden age of mob rule won't be forgotten in a spasm of politically correct protest. And it makes a great premise for a game by the way.

Avatar image for squidracerX

@Takeno456 true true, and in fact there still IS Italian mafia, its not as strong as it used to be, but if you go look at Italy's garbage crisis, that is because the mob controls garbage pick up in many places still and they were extorting the populace so Italy got covered in garbage. It is/was nasty << LINK REMOVED >>

Avatar image for RocSeanD

I remember when another group of people tried to run this same style of smear against Capcom, and Resident Evil 5. Will the idiotic never take a day off from being, umm, errrr............. Idiots?!?!??!

Avatar image for dRuGGeRnaUt

They don't have a problem with all the movies/tv shows and other media depicting italian-americans as gansters?? My guess is they recently realized that they can make some $$$ off of this. Or maybe these guys are the mafia, and they don't like video games bringing the heat down on them XD Seriously though, in history organized crime families had almost always been italian families. Most of the modern criminal organizations model themselves after italian mob families. So if they are stating that this game is making italians look bad, maybe they should worry about the italian-mob doing that, NOT some video game.

Avatar image for Kerrizma

Take Two isn't spoofing Italians Themselves. They are spoofing the Italian Mob!

Avatar image for squidracerX

"If they release Mafia 2... well we can't be held responsible for what accidents might befall them, say broken knee-caps or cement shoes, who knows what accidents may happen?" -UNICO National

Avatar image for duckfi8901

I guess Italians want to be known as this: << LINK REMOVED >> instead of being gangsters in the 40's

Avatar image for Takeno456

A short video game history lesson on ethnic based opponents. 1. In WWII games your enemies are Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. 2. In Cold War era games your enemies are Soviet Russia. 3. In Modern games your enemies are terrorists usually associated with the Middle East. 4. In Mafia your enemies are Italian mobsters. (For years there really were Italian Mafias) Why is this an issue? Did anyone complain about killing Germans or Russians? Do people realize how many games you kill Americans in? Every multiplayer in the Call of Duty series has America as a possible opponent. Does anyone complain about that? History is filled with cases of one group of people against another. As long as the game does not in reality promote racist propaganda then it should not be an issue. I believe this is another controversy that doesn't need to be an issue but people just love stirring up trouble. Class dismissed.

Avatar image for Takeno456

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

Avatar image for Dagamemonkey

Oh, for Pete's sake. It's just a game. GET OVER IT.

Avatar image for RocSeanD

@Fandango_Letho AMEN brotha A-freakin-men!!!!!

Avatar image for jmartin1016

AH! UNICO National has got it all wrong. Take Two does a great job with thier games. Red Dead and GTA were awesome. Maybe if they played them they would know that it doesnt paint italians as violent. Although they should. Stereotypes are awesome! What do I need to do to get a mini games of a white guy cooking meth in a bathtub, or a black guy stealing something. Who is UNICO National to say Italians arn't violent? They havent seen Jersey Shore.

Avatar image for ShootingPwnage

Go protest MTV's Jersey Shore instead, that stereotype is worse. Leave video games alone

Avatar image for RocSeanD

I am half Black, and half Italian, and this game is not offensive. People need to get over themselves. You have movies like the GodFather, and shows like the Soprano's, and they are finding this game offensive?!?!?!? Time to grow up poeple, and let this game just be a "Game". These kinds of people make me so mad!!! So hyper-sensitive, uppitty, and just looking for something to fight against, because they have nothing better to do.

Avatar image for SDBusDriver1979

Good they can go and join the hookers who were complaining about Grand Theft Auto.

Avatar image for squidracerX

There are Irish mobsters and crap in the game too and I'm not offended, plus there WAS a very strong Italian Mafia so this game is not a stereotype engine, it is a game based on true to life characters. Just like not all black people are gangsters or ghetto kids, but the movie Friday and Next Friday were funny and there are actually people like that who exist, and Grand Theft Auto San Andreas had true roots for some individuals but did not paint a picture for all black Americans.

Avatar image for luc11044

Another over-senstitive special interest group...this kind of tale has been told in a number of movies many, many times before...what's so different about Mafia II? Hypocrite...he probably has Goodfellas and the Godfather in his movie collection at home.

Avatar image for otaviogalileu

"We are demanding they halt release of the game and cleanse it of all references to Italians and Italian-Americans" LMAO... So what they demand is that they halt release and turn Mafia II into "Generic-Mobster-Game II" Or develop a whole new tittle! Come on... I'm part Italian and I'm not a mobster. And I'm not offended by the game either! Its been a subject for many types of art a lot of times before this! And for what I've seen none of the characters and stereotypes are particularly prejudiced. Besides, the game depicts past times, when the Mafia was stronger! Its not like you'll see that type of thing nowadays! And if we can't use social and ethnical stereotypes (without prejudice of course) as cultural references in art, what would become of our culture? The people who interpret these things as depicting actual ethnical behavior are just as flat-minded as people like mister DiMino who try to stagger free speech in favor of hiding normal social depictions of such a culture.

Avatar image for JoeDivision51

as long as they dont mess with the release of the game , frankly i dont give a damn about italians and how worried they can be for stereotypes

Avatar image for pineapplearmy

Huuullllloooooooo!!! Anybody in there??? Ok UNICO, why don't you clean your own house? Jersy Shore anyone?!? The main people who are currently perpetuating stereotypes of Italian-Americans are Italian-Americans. Oh, I guess UNICO didn't get the memo, but since about 1950 no one who is white and European can really claim racism as a result of us all having seen what true racism looks like! I've never seen an Italian or Irish waterfountain in America. Then there is history. We didn't make up the Italian mob. Maybe they are just bitter that Russian gangsters are more feared than they are now. Even if this product turns out to be blatantly offensive, at least Take-2 made something, these UNICO fools are just parasites, looking for a reason to get their panties in a wad.

Avatar image for lightwarrior179

I think it's pretty LATE for them to blame Take-Two for perpetuating Italian Americans with violence since movies like Godfather and all other movies based on Mafioso's were based on similar groups. It doesn't mean people have to stereotype every Italian American they come across. It's just looking for a reason to complain.

Avatar image for Marky360

I think they should be more worried about about protesting jersey shore stereo types that show is a disgrace.

Avatar image for LOXO7

I don't get why the devs change the name of the city and not change any other real world names. Are they afraid of the people leaving in NYC getting offended? Movies use real world citys, like in the Godfather. Why don't videogames do so as well?

Avatar image for guhmoose42

It's not racism, it's history.