Thoughts on Mafia 2's Rape Scene

Written by Joe Martin

August 30, 2010 | 10:14

Tags: #controversy #games-are-art #mafia-2 #modern-warfare-2 #thoughts-on

Companies: #2k-games

It happens in the prison showers, when Vito is told to do some cleaning and is left alone with some nasty men who express a desire to do nasty things to him. Vito wants none of this, which is consistent with his character, so he puts up a fight. Five or six punches later, it fades to black and Vito moves calmly on to the next scene.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the event when it happens that way; it’s a little flat, perhaps, but that’s it. What bothers me more though is what happens if you don’t manage to fight the bullies off. Namely, nothing; you get a game over sequence and then have to restart the fight. Vito doesn’t actually get raped, no matter what you do.

To be clear, I don’t want Vito to get raped, but I do think that if you’re going to have a rape scene like that in your game then you should provide for all outcomes. Especially since Mafia 2 often lets you fail missions without consequence. You might be told to deliver X parcels in Y minutes, ending in a cutscene where you’re teased for poor driving if you don’t manage it. There’s no game over if you fail to impress the Don, so why should there be one if you’re defending against rapists?
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Thoughts on Mafia 2's Rape Scene
Click to enlarge

Without wanting to get too far off topic, I personally buy into the ‘Games are art’ argument on occasion and therefore it’s acceptable for games to feature controversial events. Rape is a difficult, uncomfortable and nasty subject, but if fits into the context of the game and is handled maturely there’s no reason not to deal with it. Murder is horrible too, but the whole game is built around that.

Point being; it’s not the same thing as Rapelay, which is obviously abhorrent and an entirely different discussion.

I maintain that if you’re going to approach topics like rape in a game then you should commit to them fully or not at all, especially if the possibility of failure is built into your game elsewhere. Ostensibly, if Vito was defeated in the showers then the game could have just faded to black and moved on in the same way it did if he won.

Thoughts on Mafia 2's Rape Scene
Click to enlarge

At the end of the day, for not committing to the topic in a mature way Mafia 2 ends up worse off. I was left wondering if it wouldn’t be better to cut that entire section from the game, along with the rest of the deplorably dull prison chapter.

I know it’s a loathed example in the bit-tech community, but this was one thing I loved about Modern Warfare 2’s No Russian level. It didn’t consign that important story element to a cutscene, it pulled it into the gameplay and then committed to it by letting you execute unarmed civilians. You didn’t have to, but you could. In my opinion 2K should have done a similar thing with Mafia 2’s rape level – you don’t have to surrender, but if you do then the intended rape doesn’t suddenly become a rape-murder. That, or not bothered with it at all.
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