I laughed when I read this news post by GameCrate about Mafia III . Essentially, the author wrote that Hanger 13 released a new trailer showing off the game’s combat, and then ends it with a short sentence about the KKK, as if he was attempting to shoehorn it in as nonessential information (no disrespect intended). If you’ve been keeping up with the latest Mafia III news, then you probably know that the combat is not the biggest thing fans and potential consumers are discussing. It’s the KKK, of course!
In my Facebook feed, I noticed commenters naturally took to two sides of an interesting, thoughtful debate. Here are the points (paraphrasing).
1. We’ve been killing Nazis for decades of gaming. Why should killing the Ku Klux Klan be treated differently?
2. While video games have not been proven to cause violence, fake violence towards ideologies we hate makes it easier to hate the people behind them. It’s harmless, but doesn’t help society progress.
As usual, I’m all for trying to see the points behind both sides, but I mostly agree with the first argument. Have you seen the KKK and their uniforms? They look like cosplayers in low-budget stormtrooper costumes. They’re almost designed to be faceless, generic enemy soldiers. And they’re horrible people who have committed atrocious, violent crimes in American history.
That’s not to say I don’t see the point behind the second argument. If you kill so many Nazis in a variety of cartoonishly violent means, it’s easy to forget that there were real Nazi soldiers who, like everyone else, probably just wanted to return to their families by the end of the war. I would assume even individuals in the KKK also have those kinds of desires. But the two groups and everything they stand for are difficult to sympathize with, and easy to vilify in our media.
I don’t really care who I’m killing in Mafia III . A lot of video games contain senseless violence and/or sexualized characters , and as Jenni Lada pointed out for the latter, sometimes we like our games that way. I may try to find interesting non-violent games to break the mold, but I return to DOOM or Grand Theft Auto eventually. In the latter, you can go on a rampage and kill many innocent civilians (although maybe some of them have backstories explaining how they joined a hate group like the KKK; you never know), and you might even need to kill a few cops before they arrest you. I’m not sure what it is about the KKK or the Nazis that would be more controversial than, say, the No Russian mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 , in which you gun down defenseless civilians in an airport.
I am intrigued by the KKK scene in Mafia III because it could be this game’s No Russian mission. The main character is an African American trying to survive in 1960s racially prejudiced America. The violence is pulpy and yet Hangar 13 has consulted historians to help them recreate the atmosphere of racial tension.The scene isn’t like in the original Wolfenstein where Nazis were around every corner and you had no choice but to kill or be killed. The klansmen have their backs turned. They look like they’re preparing for a lynching, but Lincoln, the main protagonist, has the jump on them. They aren’t likely to run around in the city waiting for you to gun them down in the streets of New Orleans, so this is probably a limited, thought-out scene.
I will attest to the second argument that human beings have a tendency to oversimplify the other side, but Mafia III is not going to change the status quo, nor does it need to. This is a series about the people involved directly or indirectly in organized crime. However, I hope that the KKK scene in Mafia III will be a poignant one that makes me think about it for years of gaming to come. If not, then oh well! I guess I can just add the digital Klansmen to my virtual body counts along with the re-skinned Nazis.