Racism in the United States has existed since the colonial era. White Americans were given privileges and rights, but these same rights were denied to minorities. In Mafia III, a game set in a fictional recreation of New Orleans in the 1960s, you experience the racism towards coloured people as a black protagonist.
While the previous games tell stories about the Italian mob in urban settings based on the cities Chicago and New York, the latest game in the series, Mafia III, takes the franchise south to a fictional recreation of New Orleans in the late 1960s.
This historical time period marked the end of racial segregation in the United States, but the racial discrimination continued. From the moment you enter the game world New Bordeaux, racism is a serious and consistent issue. The protagonist in the story is Lincoln Clay, a black male with a biracial background.
It is all about implicit racism
It is worth mentioning that this opinion is written by a white gamer who has never experienced discrimination based on the colour of his skin, but even as a white gamer, it is hard not to develop a deeper bond with the coloured people living in the streets of New Bordeaux.
Mafia III discusses racism better than other games because these acts of racism are more implicit, rather than explicit. As a black protagonist, you experience both the systematic racism in the society and the constant racial insults from the other communities.
Most other games tend to show racism explicitly to make it clear that racism and racial discrimination towards minorities is wrong. This does not mean that Mafia III does not have these explicit and violent moments of racism, but they are used less frequent and this method better shows the true impact of systematic racism.
You look black, so you are black
The citizens in the streets acknowledge you as a black man and police officers tend to steer clear of the black neighbourhoods. In other parts of New Bordeaux, even when you are doing nothing wrong, the police have their eye on you. It does not matter that you have a biracial background, your skin colour is darker so you are a black male.
The depiction of racism in Mafia III is relevant due to the historical time period and location. It is important that games dare to cover this often controversial topic. As a white gamer, I have the chance to experience what racism feels like and this might be an eye-opener.
White power movement
In New Bordeaux you encounter the Southern Union, a white supremacist group based on the Ku Klux Klan. The members of the Southern Union wear white hoods and robes comparable to those of the members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Due to the historical time period of Mafia III, the beliefs of the Southern Union have to be included in this game. These ideas of racial discrimination were part of the historical time period and the developers had to incorporate them in the story.
A respectful representation of racism
Mafia III discusses a sensitive subject in a correct and respectful manner that makes it feel realistic and believable. The game developers took their time to research the historical time period and the effect of systematic racism on black minorities.
In contradiction to other open world games, I find it hard to complete the story of Mafia III and have to take breaks of a few days during the gameplay sessions. In this case, this is a good thing. Both you and the protagonist have to stand the weight of these acts of racism on your shoulders.
Even after a few encounters of racial discrimination, the racism in Mafia III still feels personal and believable due to the accurate depiction of both implicit and explicit racism towards black minorities in a realistic society controlled by white people.
Racism still exists in our society
The fact that Mafia III discussed racism is a step forward in the right direction. Racism is a topic worth discussing in media. The fact that this game takes place in the past does not mean that racism against coloured people is dead.
In literature, it is considered as normal to include controversial topics to make readers think about the consequences of certain beliefs. Games should include the same topics and show racism to make gamers reflect on the consequences of hate, racism and structural violence against minorities.
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Disclaimer. This post contains copyrighted images from Mafia III, a video game developed by Hangar 13 and published by 2K Games. The fair use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting or research is not considered as an infringement of copyright.