Redefining something in the gaming industry has often been talked about and the term is probably thrown around with more frequency than is actually necessary. However, when you take a look at what Hangar 13 is looking to do with Mafia III, the term, redefining, seems to be quite fitting, as they are changing what the word Mafia means.
Mafia III is set in New Orleans, Louisiana during the 1960’s and the game’s main protagonist Lincoln Clay is an orphan who has come back from the Vietnam War to try and find a place to call home. The open-world, third-person game is looking to progress and further what the Mafia series is and can be.
Depending on who you ask, some words have different meaning to different people. Family doesn’t always mean being from the same bloodline and Mafia III will be proof of that. Haden Blackman, who is the creative director and studio head for Hangar 13, talked about what Mafia means to him and what the studio looked at first when thinking about what Mafia III can be.
“A couple pillars of the franchise are obviously that sense of time and place with a strong story, that’s what Mafia II was really known for. For me, I really want to recapture the term Mafia to mean more than just the Italian mob. To me it means organized crime. We can apply it to all types of organized crime, so that was the first conversation we had internally was how can we apply it to more than just the Italian mob and start to expand what we can do in the game,” Blackman said.
It’s refreshing to see Hangar 13 not take the easy, cliche road of creating a game about the Italian mob. They’re actually trying to think outside of the box and resisting the obvious, low-hanging fruit. Games are such a powerful medium for exploring parts of life that not other media simply cannot and Mafia III is challenging our ideas of what a mob or criminal organization is.
The studio created a concept and idea for what they wanted Mafia III to be and from there, it was about choosing the time, place and protagonist. Each of those three elements are essential to the entire game, and it’s wonderful to see New Orleans as the main setting because not too many games have explored an area such as that before.
“Once we all agreed internally that we wanted to go in that direction, we started thinking about what is a really exciting time period and city and what type of protagonist or character would work really well. I can’t remember which happened first because it all kind of happened at once. We thought, ‘let’s do the 60’s, let’s do the south,’ it made sense to have a mixed-race protagonist who is a Vietnam [veteran] and working with the black mob. All of those things kind of play off of each other really, really well from a story standpoint,” Blackman said.
Having seen the world of Mafia III in-person, the city of New Orleans is crawling with life and interesting stories. Just by seeing the main protagonist walk down the street gives people an immediate sense of time and place. There are many themes that will be explored in Mafia III and it’ll be interesting to see how they are depicted in the game.
Mafia III’s main character Lincoln Clay has come back from the Vietnam War, which for those who remember their history wasn’t the most popular of wars back here in the states at the time. Lincoln’s story will be one of trying to find a place to call home and the fact that he is an orphan makes that pursuit all the more trying.
“That whole notion of being an orphan and looking for a place to belong was something we had really early on. We explore a couple of things with this. One is it’s not just that he was raised as an orphan, he was raised in a Catholic Orphanage and that has its own weight to it. But once the orphanage is closed, what is he going to do? Well he’s probably going to have to hit the streets and start trying to figure out how to survive. For me, what’s really interesting about him is this notion that no matter what he does, he is always looking for this place to belong, though he can never really find it,” Blackman said.
You could imagine how hard it would be for Lincoln to find people he can call family and also have them identify him as such in return. Not only was racism a major, unfortunate part of life during the 1960’s, being a Vietnam veteran was not viewed as an admirable title back in the States. There was so much controversy about the war to begin with and returning soldiers were treated with resentment when they came home.
In Mafia III, the story will depict a man who is desperately trying to find a home and people he can call family, and from what Blackman had to say, Lincoln will go to great lengths to find and protect that. “When he gets back from Vietnam, he gets really close with this black mob, and because he so desperately wants that sense of belonging and that sense of family, he does things that he probably shouldn’t or wouldn’t have done otherwise.
“It instills in him this overblown sense of loyalty and that becomes his fatal flaw. It’s a really admirable quality, but he is so loyal that it gets him into a lot of trouble. Once the Italian mob betrays the black mob, that loyalty still drives him to seek revenge,” Blackman said.
Mafia III is certainly one of the biggest games to watch out for in 2016, as it not only has an immersive setting for people to become lost in, but it seems to be exploring a lot of serious themes as well. Hopefully Mafia III will turn out to be the game it has the potential of being. Stay tuned as we’ll have plenty more from our chat with Haden.