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Coalition of Italian Americans Brand  Mafia II  Launch Party A 'Dismal Failure'
Coalition of Italian Americans Brand Mafia II Launch Party A 'Dismal Failure'
August 31, 2010 | By Simon Parkin

August 31, 2010 | By Simon Parkin
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After protesting a launch party, UNICO National is claiming victory in their campaign against the portrayal of Italian Americans in 2K Games’ Mafia II. "I have no doubt our efforts resulted in the Mafia II Launch Party, at the 92nd Street Y's Tribeca Center, being a dismal failure," said Andre' DiMino, chief media executive for UNICO and spokesman for the group that represents Italian Americans.

DiMino had originally demanded that parent company Take-Two "halt release of the game and cleanse it of all references to Italians and Italian-Americans”, claiming that the game “directly, blatantly and unfairly discriminates and demeans one group to the exclusion of all others."

However, last week DiMino set his sights on the New York launch party event, pressuring the event’s host, the 92nd Street Y, to cancel the event as inappropriate for a well-known not-for-profit institution.

"When we first heard about this marketing event only recently, we went into action, using our resolve to challenge an event whose purpose was to mock the Italian American community by promoting the new video game Mafia II," said DiMino.

DiMino claims both Take-Two and the 92nd Street Y "became very hesitant to heavily promote ethnic bashing in this very public way", citing a lack of media coverage as proof that both parties "pulled back" on promoting the launch event. He called this "only one small, satisfying victory" in what he described as a long campaign on behalf of Italian Americans opposed to Mafia II.

"I believe," he continued, "the combined result of our activities was that, without acknowledging our efforts, both Take-Two and the 92nd Street Y became very hesitant to heavily promote ethnic bashing in this very public way. The lack of media coverage for the launch party is another indicator that they pulled back on promoting this event."

Mr. DiMino concluded, "For us, this is one small, satisfying victory in a much longer, more sophisticated campaign within the Italian American community opposed to Mafia II specifically, and the continued misrepresentation of the Italian American community, generally. Take-Two and its major investors, and the entertainment industry in general, will be hearing further and forcefully from us."

Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick, responded publicly to UNICO’s previous claims: "We balance our right to free expression with what we believe is a thoughtful and responsible approach to creating and marketing our products… We aim to distinguish creative and compelling story telling that advances artistic expression from subject matter that gratuitously exploits or glorifies violence or stereotypes."

Mafia II thus far has not seen an especially strong launch, a development due more likely to its critical reception than to the actions of a group. The title received a "mixed or average" Metacritic score of 74, and Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter recently pointed out that "consumer interest appears to be waning, as the game’s position has dropped in many best-seller lists in its first week." The analyst and several of his colleagues have suggested the game is unlikely to turn a profit for its publisher.


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Comments


Tomiko Gun
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UNICO, focus all your attention on "Jersey Shore."



Mafias > Oompa Loompa Guidos

Rodney Brett
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Haha! Yeah, seriously.. Those characters on that "reality" show arent' even using their real accents.

Kyle Mullan
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And how many times have Italian-Americans been shown in the same way in the film industry? UNICO needs to get with the times, quit complaining and get on with life.

Frank Diaz
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My blue heaven, my cousin vinnie, godfather, goodfellas, the professional, the sopranos.. Where was this half a moron when these films came out? This guy should go protest staten island and leave the game industry alone.

Joe McNeely
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I'm a bit confused, is this a viral marketing initiative by the publisher to get additional PR? Or is this really a group pissed about Mafia II. If they are pissed about Mafia II why hadn't I heard about them being against The Jersey Shore or the Sopranos.

jaime kuroiwa
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The memory of that fake church protest against Dante's Inferno is still fresh in my mind. This one seems more legitimate, but it could just be a case of a marketing group learning from a mistake.

Jeff Addonizio
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To me this seems like a poor attempt for UNICO to draw attention. Obviously it's known that controversy in games is an easy hot spot to push with the press. To my knowledge, UNICO has previously protested other mafia related games however non of which have ever created negative results from or towards the Italian community. Mafia I, Gangsters, Gangsters II, or The Godfather (Game) were all enjoyable games for me. I'm an Italian American and Mafia related games don't bother me at all, its part of our history and culture...can't change it and it doesn't make each of us extorting murderers either.



I also agree with Tomiko and others, UNICO if your really worried about how Italian American's are viewed by the public perhaps focus your attention on the real people "Jersey Shore" rather than fictional characters.

Arnaud Clermonté
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Maybe these guys could put their energy into solving real problems of the real world, rather than brag about their virtual fictive victory over a video game...

But I guess games are an easier target.

Stefan Durmek
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Wow. Next time they'll say that mafia existed only in comic books and it never really happened in a real life

Eric Geer
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I'm not sure what to think about UNICO and this DiMino. As much as people may be portraying Italians/Italian Americans in a bad light in many of these entertainment mediums, one short glimpse into the history of these portrayals and you will see that much of this has happened. These mediums are generally just using fictitious names and characters in order to take heat of of these otherwise historical characters and groups. Would it be more worth while for Devs/Publishers of games, as well as Directors/Producers of Movies, and Authors of novels, to use the history that is, and create truly historical experiences of things that actually happened, so that these "interest groups" can't really get involved, and if they do it would all be worthless because they could cite the references of these true identities. I'm not sure what's worse, educating people about a history that is true, using fictional characters to depict a somewhat true history, or blatantly targeting these groups. And the sad part about all of this is that in the end this group is detesting part of the italian history that is here in the US. Do I have a problem with America's "Manifest Destiny" and the genocide and "relocation" of the Native American people and their culture, sure I do, but I'm not going to try to tell someone not to tell the story because I detest it and it paints a poor picture of Americans/Forefathers/Our Current situation and the hypocrisy of "freedom" and the Constitution/Declaration of Independence.--It happened--Its true--Its History--So whats the problem with fictionalizing these historical reference...hell--I love playing red dead redemption as John Marston and shooting down whites, mexicans and native americans--theres social/culture issues in all of historically based games because there have been social/culture issues in our history...as well as every other countries history--and no body can change that.

Chas Guidry
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You guys should really read up on the subject before you blindly bash an organization for feeling offended.



http://boldstate.com/2010/08/20/italian-american-group-wants-ster
eotypes-cut-from-mafia-ii/



UNICO doesn't deny Italians took part in the mafia but points out that a relatively small percentage of the ethnic group participated in organized crime compared to other groups and that the stereotype is perpetuated throughout all media.



You ask where were they for The Sopranos or Jersey Shore, but if you bothered looking you'd find that they campaigned against both.



All I'm asking is that members of the video game community do a little research before posting ignorant or offensive comments because anyone from outside the industry who actually read through the comments in most news articles on game blogs would have good reason to assume we're all racist morons.

Eric Geer
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"UNICO doesn't deny Italians took part in the mafia but points out that a relatively small percentage of the ethnic group participated in organized crime compared to other groups and that the stereotype is perpetuated throughout all media."



I think this is what the problem is...they recognize that only a small percentage actually participated---and most other people believe this as well. And these games are focused only on the small percentage. The game is called Mafia for god sake. Its not called Italian Americans.....and if there was a game called italian american I most likely wouldn't play it because it would be the Sims...with Italians. UNICO needs to understand that this game isnt targeting Italian Americans as a whole...it is a game strictly and solely targeting the MAFIA------2/again.



As for Stereotypes in the media....they can try to change that all they want...but that is a losing battle...Sterotypes were around before the media and they have flourished with the media--but they will never die. Goonies[Stereotypes] Never Say Die!!!

Rodney Brett
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Everyone has a right to their own opininion, but putting pressure on launch party events and media junkets with the sole purpose of killing sales of the game is kinda cruel in my opinion. Lots of fine folks worked hard on that game and I'm always bothered by these actions. UNICO made their statement, and it's very clear and even understandable, but this crusade like behavior of "only one small, satisfying victory" is very typical of radical groups. Besides, when did a game have to actually follow historical accuracy? Are we as gamers that idiotic that we use video games to educate us about American history?



I understand your point about not researching groups before bashing them. I completely agree.

Chas Guidry
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Basing your argument entirely upon the name of the game is pointless. The game is about Italians partaking in organized crime just because that's what the media has raised us to expect from Italian characters despite it only reflecting a very small fraction of the truth.



I'm sure Take-Two played up to this stereotype because a mafia game about Irish gangsters wouldn't sell as well, but more money is never a good reason to perpetuate an ignorant stereotype.

Tim Haywood
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It's probably not realized either that this game is set in the late 40's and 50's, and is only a reflection of some criminals living in that time - and does not reflect the whole Italian American community - which is as varied as all the communities of America.



But lets hazard a guess that no one from UNICO has actually played this game?

Josh Green
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Non-story. Please stop posting this on Gamasutra. There's protest groups for practically everything out there. No need to post for every single group that puts out press releases showing how offended they are.

Rodney Brett
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good response. Sensational "news" is getting worse by the day and relevant information now has to be carefully combed out of articles. Paul Verhoven predicted this in Robocop. It's amazing how true it is today.

Simon Carless
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Josh, we actually had a 'robust' discussion among Gamasutra editors about the necessity of running this, and we are thinking about this precedent closely and how far we need to go in posting similar stores. So fret not.

Roberto Dillon
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True. Still, it may have its positives sides to know when a game offends someone and why, as a proper/constructive criticism can always help in making us, and the industry as a hole, more mature and responsible.

In any case, I'm Italian, I'm not a "mafioso" and I still look forward to playing and enjoying this game which doesn't offend me at all (and I'd have had no problem whatsoever in joining the launch party too :P)

Gregory Kinneman
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@Chas: Excellent point. I'm glad someone else here believes in research.



Point 1: With the exception of work labeled non-fiction, the characters featured in the stories are completely fictional. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental. No similarity to any person either living or dead is intended or should be inferred.



It's not fair to criticize a work of fiction for being partially based on real people. It's very hard to relate to characters unlike the people we've met.



Point 2: All generalizations are wrong.



It's not fair to focus purely on one ethnic group in a negative way. It's probably a bad idea to do the same thing in an overly positive way either. The goal is a balanced, unbiased view.



Take the two together and you get a good guideline for what UNICO cares about. They're not blaming the game for being about violent Mafiosos. They're upset that it's not put in a realistic context, where other crime groups were very, very significant. They're upset that this is a Hollywood stereotype and not a somewhat-accurate portrayal of organized crime in the 40s.

Sean Kiley
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He should have made them an offer they couldn't refuse.

Eric Geer
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Nice.

Paul Lazenby
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UNICO is trying to take credit for the launch party failure of Mafia II? Shame on them, that award should go to the marketing department at Take-Two.

Tawna Evans
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Interesting news. Make a game likely to incite a group of people to protest, and look at what happens. Question: did the protest have an impact? Perhaps it dwindled excitement for the launch parties, but it also made more people aware of the game, who otherwise might not have heard of it.

Alvaro Gonzalez
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YES!... finally... 2k have to be proud...

Art make us reflex, and Mafia as a game art is doing it. I am not saying that Mafia is a Master Piece of art, but sure is a piece.

There are a few games in the last 10 years that make us debate about something beyond the UI, Main Char, etc.

It's time to talk more about the content of games and critic them and demand them and less about technical aspects.

I mean, games must have something to say apart from alien invasions?

If we don't encourage the developers to continuing exploring the Game Language, nobody will do.

Jonathan Jennings
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It had nothing at all to do with their rally and everything to do with a game-structure many players aren't used to ( many people are still wrapping their heads around a linear and story driven open-world game). It amazes me the amount of things people can get offended about. the mafia game isn't their to slander the name of the italian people it's a representation of actual italian-americans during a certain period of time. The german-people should have filed countless lawsuits against using nazis in WW2 games by now if this game is perceived as truly offensive.

Chas Guidry
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That Nazi comparison doesn't work in this situation and just proves the misunderstanding of UNICO's point that Italians comprised a very small percentage of organized crime.



Mafia II IS a representation of Italians during a certain time period, but you have to ask yourself, why Italians, why the mafia, and why that time period.



It's because the media has been portraying Italians as gangsters an unfair amount in comparison to other ethnic groups for decades. Before I looked into the situation, I was unaware of just how exaggerated the role Italians played in organized crime was and it's shows like The Sopranos and games like Mafia II that perpetuate this ignorance.



You can say Take Two was just telling the story of an Italian character who gets into organized crime but they didn't have to do that. It's the same as saying there's nothing wrong with a white protagonist killing black zombies in Resident Evil 5. The game took place in Africa which is predominantly black but it didn't have to take place there. It's irresponsible on both parts to just ignorantly display images that carry negative weight like that.

Eric Geer
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They chose the Italian Mob because people are intrigued by it. It may be Hollywood and it may be stereotypical...but it still more intriguing than any other Mob or Gang. And its a sequel. They couldnt just change the demographic....or could they have?? They could have made the series a series of different Mobs---Mafia 1-Italians--Mafia 2-Irish--Mafia 3-Russians--Mafia 4--etc.---You get my point. But totally off topic



As for the Resident Evil thing, I still don't get what eveyone was POed about. Chris is a repeat character and just happened to land himself in another country where the population was majority black. Resident Evil 4--Zombies were majority Spanish...If Resident evil 6 happens in Asia--dammit I expect to see asian Zombies...Its a choice of location---not race--And I believe it is a responsible decision because if you saw a bunch of white zombies in africa..just wouldnt fit..unless of course we were in south africa..then it would be mixed.

Jonathan Jennings
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people of other nationalities fought in world war 2 as well but more often than not the player is fighting against the germans and the japanese. could it not be deemed offensive to have the majority of enemies in these games be comprised of those two nationalities ? no this is a case of over sensitivity, and I am ashamed of unico just as much as I was ashamed of the whole africans in africa argument. it is not the developers job to make sure those with glass feelings are always catered to, this game is meant to express a very specific view on a very specific group living a very specific life style. would you prefer a multi-cultural mob ? especially in a 50's type environment?



I am certain you must not have played the game or you would under stand the sense of authenticity they were trying to maintain within the time period. there is no need to be offended, it's a game merely meant to entertain . the fact that ito ( the main character) and the majority of the cast is italian isn't an attack on italians it is just a representation of the itialian mafia.

Chas Guidry
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He didn't just happen to land himself in Africa. Capcom specifically planned to place their white male protagonist in a setting that pretty much required poor, black, mindless enemies. They didn't have to do that. And RE5 is different from 4 because the image of a white man slaying mindless hordes of black people carries much more weight than that of a white man slaying Spanish people.



It should be common sense, but our defense mechanism gets triggered so quickly when it comes to someone speaking out against video games that we forget common sense and fail to see how people actually perceive our medium and make ignorant claims and stupid jokes like the ones above (ie, make him a deal he couldn't refuse).

Ben Rice
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Most of us here seem to have a sense of humor, and take these things with a light heart.



For every "defense mechanism that gets triggered quickly", there is an equal number of individuals who overreact and claim profiling.



How about we play the fictional game in the fictional setting as the developer imagined it be?

Eric Geer
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Chas...you are way to sensitive man...and anyway...Capcom is a pretty Japanese Developer and Publisher...they don't have near the sensitivity to this "racism" as white/black Americans do...

Chas Guidry
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I'm not offended at all. I'm just disappointed that these types of stories always result in comments that perfectly illustrate the point of the people who actually are offended. UNICO is offended Take Two chose to perpetuate a stereotype and the video game community's response is to make mafia jokes and poor comparisons without taking the time to even understand what UNICO is upset about.



Also, Capcom being a Japanese company doesn't make the company any less irresponsible for creating imagery that would obviously create controversy, especially considering the US is where most of the game's customers are. If you plan on selling a product in a market not part of your own culture, you should do research before you end up releasing something culturally insensitive.

Achilles de Flandres
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Apparently UNICO had no concern about the outrageously offense portrayal of Blacks and Asians in the game. Every Black or Asian you came across had grotesquely ugly-looking character models and spoke in an uneducated, inarticulate way. I was appalled by how insensitive they made any black or asian character. The Italians in the game were the clean, articulate, sophisticated, and attractive characters in the game. UNICO clearly did not play the game and see how Italians are portrayed in comparison to other ethnicities.


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