Last week, I was interviewed by Iman Smith, a writer from NPR’s All Tech Considered, and we chatted about race and diversity in games. Here is the resulting piece on the game Mafia III:
How One Video Game Unflinchingly Tackles Racism With History And Raw Interactions
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.
My quote appears near the end of the article:
The vast majority of game developers are white — the results of a 2015 survey by the International Game Developers Association suggest that only about 3 percent of video-game makers are African American and 7 percent are Latino. Meanwhile, several studies have found that black and Latino children and teenagers spend more time per day playing video games.
“The statistics are shifting and telling us that who plays games is no longer this imagined idea of the white straight able-bodied adolescent male who is at home in their parents’ basement,” says Edmond Chang, a visiting assistant professor at the University of Oregon. “The industry has really failed in certain ways to catch up.”
I am pleased to be part of the article, and I hope to continue to be a resource for NPR. One day I will have a chance to give an on-air interview. (In the meantime, read Tanya DePass’s response to Mafia III and Watch Dogs 2: http://www.polygon.com/2016/12/22/14046204/watch-dogs-2-race.)