How One Video Game Unflinchingly Tackles Racism With History And Raw Interactions

By | January 3, 2017

It’s 1968 in New Bordeaux, La. On the surface all looks tranquil as you drive through the bustling city in your red Pontiac, tapping your foot to Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang.”

But as you take a sharp left down a winding back alley, an alarming sight gives you pause. Behind you, trucks painted with the Confederate flag begin to appear, the white men behind the wheel angry and visceral as they shout racial slurs.

Your name is Lincoln Clay. You’re a 23-year-old biracial man — but in this place, this time, you’re black, and instances of racism and bigotry are commonplace.

This is Mafia III, an action-adventure video game developed by Hangar 13 and published by 2K Games.

It’s a game that, in a lot of ways, meticulously adopts and adapts from the racial and political history of the era. And it’s become a provocative and in some ways cathartic alternate reality that directly confronts gamers of all walks of life with the reimagined raw trials of a protagonist rarely featured by the industry.

The game’s authentic use of past racial tensions isn’t the crux of the plot — its premise is similar to other Mafia games, in which a protagonist goes up against the mob. But their presentation is heavy and deliberate. Senior writer Charles Webb says the creators wanted to spark players’ consciousness without overindulging in a history lesson. (NPR)

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