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The Irish News has reported controversy over Mafia 3, as Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland have attacked the game over it’s portrayal of the IRA in a single side mission. It has been claimed that the game “glorifies” the former terrorist organization, and political figures like the Democratic Unionist Party’s Jeffrey Donaldson are “very concerned” about the impact this could have on “impressionable” minds. Detractors have gone as far as to call for the game to be withdrawn from sale. Before we discuss this further, why not take 30 seconds to watch the scene in question, below:

While the misrepresentation of terrorism as a ‘glamorous’ cause is certainly a valid concern, it appears many of the commentators on this issue have responded without taking the time to view the scene in question or do any research into the wider context of Mafia 3. There are at least a couple of contextual points that help to put this scene in perspective. Firstly, the character that Lincoln (the main character) is working with here is an IRA supporter in the wider story of the game, but this is hardly glorified – in fact, this very scene suggests his support of the organization is one of the reasons he and his daughter are estranged. Secondly, the main character is clearly uncomfortable with the task he is being given, thanks to the fantastic mo-cap on display, you can clearly see his body language and reaction to being told the IRA are involved is negative.

**Spoiler Alert** The above is just from viewing the scene alone too. If you’ve played through the mission, and the game, you’ll know that; in fact, the IRA were never involved in this mission at all. The character of Burke is actually just making up a story; he wants to raise money to support his daughter when he’s gone – as he knows at this point that he has terminal cancer. **Spoiler Over**

Jim Allister of the ‘Traditional Unionist Voice’ party, seems to fall into this category; he was quoted as saying:

The sick glamorisation of terrorism should have no place in a world where people well beyond Northern Ireland have sadly learned of its devastating impact on human life.

Which is a statement that’s hard to argue with, but not really relevant in this case. It’s possible to argue that using this organisation as a veneer for a side mission that basically just tasks the character with stealing cars is inappropriate, but this argument seems to discount the fact that the theme of the game is ‘The Mafia’ – an organisation which is collectively responsible for the deaths of far more innocents than the IRA ever were. Unlike the militant IRA, The Mafia continues to operate, and much closer to home for many players of the game.

It’s worth noting as well that all quoted commentators in the Irish News story come from various forms of the Unionist Party, the political opposition of the former IRA’s legitimate political party Sinn Fein. Jim Rodgers of the Ulster Unionist Party goes even further, directly accusing developer Hangar 13 of capitalizing on tragedy to make money:

We went through 40 years of violence in which many lives were lost and people maimed. I knew there would eventually be some who would seek to exploit that to make money.

It’s perhaps understandable that those with a personal connection to IRA violence would be more deeply affected by this scene’s inclusion. Let’s not forget, however, that this is a historical game. It is an established fact that the IRA operated in North America under the guise of NORAID, in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It is theorized that they obtained not only funding for IRA activities but arms as well. In 1981 the US Federal Court pronounced: “The uncontroverted evidence is that [Noraid] is an agent of the IRA, providing money and services for other than relief purposes.” So in the context of history at least, the topic is certainly germane.

Mafia 3 has also been criticized by the same commentators for including a piece of anti-unionist graffiti which is, again, historically accurate:

mafia-3-ira

This does not appear to be prominently displayed in any particular scene, and instead has to be sought out by the player or stumbled across in the world. The same can be said of all of Burke’s IRA related content, which takes place exclusively in optional side missions. Whilst it’s important that sensitivity to the victims of terrorism is observed, it seems that it is factually inaccurate to suggest that Mafia 3 glorifies the actions of the IRA.

It’s hard to accuse Hangar 13 of being insensitive to the difficult issues raised in their game, either. Their opening disclaimer is mainly geared toward the racism that is directed at Lincoln throughout the game, but it seems relevant here none the less:

Mafia III takes place in a fictionalized depiction of the American South in 1968.

We sought to create an immersive experience that captures this very turbulent time and place, including depictions of racism.

We find the racist beliefs, language, and behaviors of some characters in the game abhorrent, but believe it is vital to include these depictions in order to tell Lincoln Clay’s story.

More importantly, we felt that to not include this very real and shameful part of our past would have been offensive to the millions who faced – and still face – bigotry, discrimination, prejudice, and racism in all it’s forms.

– Hangar 13

This is sure to be a hot-button issue, and we’d love to get your take on it. Are 2K and Hangar 13 within their rights to portray the IRA within the context of Mafia 3? Or do you feel like this is an insensitive step too far? Let us know in the comments below.

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Dom O'Leary

Staff Writer

I'm a dyed in the wool gamer of the now irrelevant (I'm told) generation-X. If I'm not gaming, you'll find me writing about games, writing my wonderful fiction (opinions may differ), playing guitar, or eating... sleep is a distant memory.