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 SuperMegaMaster

Hypocrite, that's what you are Mr. Dimino!! All what you probably want is money...

Avatar image for thahomiene5tle

That's just like inner city people being offended because of street gangs in a video game. The game revolves around just the gangs, not the people as a whole. Sounds stupid? Yes, and that is this exact situation pretty much.

Avatar image for Blitz8529

Hyper-Sensitive people ruin everything.

Avatar image for CaptainHerlock

As someone of Italian descent, I'm not offended in the least by Mafia II. I've always said that with all the great painters, poets, artists, engineers, military leaders, musical composers, operatic singers, musicians, philosophers, scientists, explorers, inventers, actors, cinematic directors, playwrites, sculptors, and world leaders that have come out of Italy over the generations, if you think that something like this represents your "heritage", then you DESERVE to be offended and insulted.

Avatar image for tiggerboy

Did they complain about The Godfather, Goodfellas, Mafia, or any other mafia-crime based movies? What about the Jersey Shore? Those dumbass D-bags are try to mimic being Italian. every person on this giant rock has a stereotype no matter what you boycott, picket, or protest, so take your pic: Have a stereotype of being a badass gangster, or as a complete and total douche? Take your time, I'll wait.

Avatar image for fgjnfgh

isn't true that members of the mafia are italian-american? we can see that in movies too

Avatar image for nickyparmar92

The demo didn't seem wrong. It was actually pretty good. I'm waiting for a review to see what else the game can offer apart from what was in the demo.

Avatar image for hunter8man

I didn't hear any whining from any Japanese-American groups when Yakuza was released. By the way, Take-Two thanks the UNICO for the free publicity.

Avatar image for deactivated-57fce817a4cf5

A game with an ethnic stereotype! (slaps cheeks) Never! Don't these people have anything better to do? If I were them I'd get more annoyed with the voice of Mario. "oi Nintendo, we don't sound like that, innit"

Avatar image for Fandango_Letho

They should protest against Jersey Shore instead.

Avatar image for gwailo2470

the exclusive domain? I guess he missed San Andreas and GTA IV. I guess we have to make games about ethnicities that don't belong to organized crime... Is there a Swedish Mafia? Maybe they can make a game about them just so they don't offend anyone. "Burn down your opponents modular furniture warehouse!"

Avatar image for ToppledPillars

So easily offended!

Avatar image for DanGleeSack

jesus people have no balls nowadays i agree with everything omegadog said people take things way too personal and complain about sterotypes, which to some extent are actually true, they had to come from somewhere. Im part Italian, russian, polish and irish. I hear alot of racial sterotypes, they dont bother me, i think they are funny. The WOPS are probably just whining to get $$$ and dont actually care about what the game portrays. lol @ born_lucky thats true

Avatar image for omegadog

How many people today just CAN'T WAIT to find something they can be offended by? How happy are we when we get the chance to paint ourselves as The Victim? UNICO loves this game, because if it wasn't for games (and movies, books, etc) like this, they would not have their chance to whine in the spotlight. This DiMino character complains this game targets Italians "to the exclusion of all of the other 'mafias' run by other ethnic and racial groups." Does he realize "mafia" is an Italian word? Does he realize that by using the word "mafia" instead of saying "organized crime groups" that he is perpetuating the very same sterotype he is supposedly trying to fight? This is silly. I'm Italian and I've never met an Italian that was offended by mafia references. To paraphrase the great Nick DiPaolo: "If you want to fight negative Italian-American stereotypes, how about you start with those Olive Garden commercials?... 'Uncle Vito was visiting from Sicily, so we took him to the Olive Garden!'... Uncle Vito was visiting from Sicily, so you took him to the Olive Garden? What? Was the A&P out of SpaghettiOs?"

Avatar image for trumafioso

DiMino is a hypocrite. As an Italian myself, I'm willing to bet even money that he presently owns a copy of both The Godfather and Goodfellas and probably enjoys watching them as much as I do. I know my father, who is as Italian as an immigrant can be, loves watching them and feels no offence to their content. How can a man like DiMino be offended by a game along the same lines? Shame on you DiMino! SHAME!

Avatar image for xthabeast

Clearly they only found it offensive because they can make money off of it. Crazy Jersey Shore cheaptalians

Avatar image for Richardthe3rd

My guess is that Take 2 paid this guy to create some controversy, and thus good publicity, for their game. The whole thing reeks of desperation by some ulterior vested interest. Because seriously, who gives two $&%^s what this guy thinks.

Avatar image for Arab-man666

If they wanted to do they, where exactly were they for the other Million franchises in movies and games revolving around Italian-Mafia crime syndicates?

Avatar image for Skargamer

haha, I like the picture illustrated above the caption! Nice one!

Avatar image for sick_dope_rad

"We are demanding they halt release of the game and cleanse it of all references to Italians and Italian-Americans." Hahahahahaha. It's funny because it's a game with nothing but Italian characters. This is so stupid, especially when he says why they make a game about the Italian mafia and no other organized crime group. It should be pretty obvious that the Italian mob is the most famous, not to mention that there has already been video games with just about every other ethnic group's stereotypical criminals.

Avatar image for SnakeEyesX80

Were they mad that Nintendo's Mario also implied that all Italians are plumbers?

Avatar image for AuronTsubaki85

Where is the evidence, UNICO of exploiting stereotypes in this game? Show it to me.

Avatar image for GeneralArrow

My Mom is half Italian and I have nothing against this game.

Avatar image for AdmiralKhara

There is always, however, someone who must moan concerning something in a game. Then a game is to violent and now someone feels that they get pictured as a criminal. Maybe there is some truth in the moaning. GET A LIFE, IT IS A GAME. IT IS NOT REAL, IT IS FICTION.

Avatar image for leysaley

UNICO Grow up..get a job or get a gal..!!

Avatar image for SnakeEyesX80

Yeah, it's not like all the tons of movies portraying the mob as "mostly Italian" would confuse the situation. How come this freak didn't come out of the woodwork when the Godfather (1, 2 and 3), Casino, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale or Donnie Brasco were released? Or how about the award winning series The Sopranos? So those were OK, accurate depictions then? It's a game, lighten up.

Avatar image for CrimsonDeacon

Whether it's motion pictures or games, they both head into the same entertainment category, so why is it that there weren't any protests over Godfather or Goodfellas or Sopranos, or even the first Mafia game to begin with?

Avatar image for fattass21

wow..... just..... wow. do people REALLY have nothing better to do then this? i mean, come on! really? all the movies, games, and whatever else stuff that had italians in them, they go after this? i think they A) have nothing else better to do. B) doing it for the money and publicity. or C) both. really sad to see humanity grow dumber and dumber.

Avatar image for Shanks_D_Chop

It's a game! Besides, the fact that UNICO brought this up proves they acknowledge the stereotypes are partially justified.

Avatar image for drummerdickens

More time complaining about Italian stereotypes is less time delivering pizzas.

Avatar image for Riverwolf007

this is terrible! nobody ever associated these poor beleagured people with the mafia before this! shame on take-two for being the first media outlet to ever do this!

Avatar image for Petch1984

Now we all know who UNICO National are. Nice free global advertising for them.

Avatar image for Born_Lucky

Didn't these people go to public school? They should know - only black people have the right to act like whiny little babies - not white people.

Avatar image for BionicBrando

I wonder if any of these protesters are in the Mafia?

Avatar image for xeridae

"We are demanding they halt release of the game and cleanse it of all references to Italians and Italian-Americans." This is like if Germany wanted to ban all world war II games because the Nazis are German. It sounds like someone is in denial about where the Mafia comes from and who they let in. Notice that no one from Italy actually cares about the game. It's the Italian Americans that want to make something out of nothing.

Avatar image for vatrak

@peetowser Actually, they did complain about jersey shore

Avatar image for kejigoto

Stereotypes exist for a reason....

Avatar image for TimmyNude

Italians run Mafias, it's true. They shouldn't be worried about negative stereotypes. The game and it's story is about the Mafia, not Italians. They weren't worried about negative racial stereotypes on GTA: SA. If anything complain about the game depicting an illegal and violent Mafia life, not racial stereotypes. Weak excuse to play the race card, it's 2010 lets be real.

Avatar image for Nooberman2k

@Johny_47 Thank you for summing up my feelings on the issue of games affecting the personality of children perfectly!

Avatar image for rustynailrdm

those idiots just want some attention, i mean why else would they complain? danm pricks

Avatar image for Sumna87

I'd rather be associated with organized crime than greasy hair and over tanning.

Avatar image for petey3

If this gets banned they should re-release it as Super Mafia World XD

Avatar image for bandit7319

Yeah this is dumb. You don't see Asians or Asian-Americans flipping out over Yakuza. This group is just ignorant. Maybe I'm alone, but when I meet an Italian I don't automatically think they're in the Mafia :-\. Fact is, the Mafia is Italian. Deal with it.

Avatar image for peetowser

Really?? You chastize a game for perpetuating bad stereotypes on italians because it's mafia related while at the same time, a TV serie called Jersey Shore's entire subject matter is focused on vain, vapid and braindead italians admiring their abs, going out getting wasted beyond retarded and generally thinking their are the bomb without any valid reason why... A fictitious video game based on historical events (whether you like it or not, italians run mafias) or a reality-TV depicting the sad state of probably some of the worst real contemporary italians.... And you pick on the video game? If I was italian, I'd throw a "Whatsa matta with'a yoooo?"

Avatar image for Igissx

Hey I was born in italy and I really never found these things to be offensive...being considered to be a mafia isnt racist...just means your that bad-ass to be accused of it.

Avatar image for Karrotjuce

Wow I sounded petulant.

Avatar image for Karrotjuce

My god, this is stupid. Every time a game with some content that could be supposed to be a little bit racist, all of these self-righteous bigots get up in arms against it. Just let Take-Two publish a game in peace for gods sake!

Avatar image for LozzyRoxx

This is actually pretty funny:lol: People just can't get it in their heads that the thing they're apparently offended by is nothing more than a game, which is a completely stupid excuse to get worked up for anyway.

Avatar image for thedarkpunk

wow...first's just a game...secondly...if anyone takes this stuff as a serious offense then they obviously have problems telling a difference in reality and imagination...but if they do "ban" this game then I'll find a way to get it anyways because I've been looking forward to it for the past year

Avatar image for Sabzak

Damn it you can't do anything without having some one offended by it these days...