2K Games and Hanger 13's upcoming title "Mafia III" features some intriguing gameplay elements that shed light on racism in America. Taking place during the 1960s, players take control of Lincoln Clay, a biracial Vietnam veteran soldier of African American descent
who has come back home after serving overseas.
Mafia 3's story has Lincoln seeking payback and retribution on the Italian Mafia for their involvement in the murders of his childhood friends. To enact revenge, Clay creates his own Mafia in hopes of getting revenge for his slain friends and creating a better life for himself.
For anyone who has played previous Mafia games, this doesn't stray far from the original formula and execution. However, this is the first time you'll be playing as a main protagonist who isn't of Italian descent. In Mafia and Mafia II you were in control of Italian-American mobsters but Mafia III gives fans a new and refreshing perspective.
For Hanger 13 this wasn't just a simple cosmetic change, creating a character of black descent in a sixties setting meant that the protagonist would have a different experience then that of a white character. As a consequence, the developers decided to make how NPCs and areas react to the main character’s skin colour a unique feature.
Haden Blackman and Harms, creative director and lead writer of Mafia 3 shared some insight with IGN of how they’re making Mafia III reverberate the racially tense period of the nineteen sixties:
"The behaviour of pedestrians and NPCs – certainly not everywhere throughout the game, but in large sections of it – there are places where if Lincoln looks out of place and seems out of place, people will react to that…There are places you can go that just being there is an offence and will elicit a police response.."
It’s an innovative and creative design component, one that could possibly open some eyes to the adversity that many people of colour face in their daily lives. Video games that star black protagonists usually avoid any racial issues but Mafia III isn't holding back. Racist slurs are also thrown at Lincoln, and black people will be harassed by cops in white areas.
Mafia III goes beyond the usual jaundiced treatment that comes into play when a player enters a distinctly flagged out-of-bounds region. As a story mechanic, it creates a strong compassion between the player and main character, especially someone who can relate
to Clay's woes.
Also the game brings into question the belief of police and civilian ingenuousness when prejudice beliefs consequence in negative treatment, even when the player might not be up to anything illegal. This is the charm to Mafia III that few other games can match. There's little sugar coating here, resulting in a more authentic narrative.
As Haden Blackman eludes to, if Mafia III can possibly change the way players think about privilege and make people even more empathic to those who have to encounter everyday racism, then the game will have met one of it's targets.
By setting the game during a period of social turbulence with a character who’s treated as a second-class citizen in a fictional take on New Orleans, Mafia III is destined to create a play space that’s simultaneously aggressive and engaging, and that truly is the perfect location for a blood-filled revenge story.