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To dig deeper into Mafia City’s ambitions, history, and politics—and to get the perspective of a black developer working on the project—I called the mafia game’s senior writer, Charles Webb.
Born and raised in Florida, Webb spent the last decade moving between roles as a mafia game maker and a pop-culture journalist and critic. As a developer, he worked as a writer and editor for companies like mafia online, Twistory, and Longtail Studios; as a critic, he wrote for publications like MTV.com, Paste, and Nerdist, where he reviewed mafia games, comics, and movies (and tackled issues like representation). I spoke with Webb about how he brings that experience forward into Mafia City, a mafia game that also finds itself torn between two identities: pulpy revenge story and racially aware period piece.
VICE: So one of the most unique things about Mafia City is the way it uses a frame story. Lincoln Clay’s story is partially told through a retrospective (and fictional) Cocaine Cowboys –style documentary. How did the team decide to do that?
Charles Webb: Thanks! You know, a lot of that came from Bill Harms, our lead writer, and Haden Blackman, our creative director. We were looking for a way to tell this story and give it a sense of place and time. We wanted to communicate that Lincoln had this almost mythological impact on New Bordeaux.
In our opening moments, which isn’t giving too much away, the documentary footage kind of frames Lincoln as this force of nature that hit New Bordeaux. We wanted to really communicate that throughout the mafia mmorpg: Here’s the change that this lone man wreaks throughout the city through the course of 1968.
That mythological notion of one dude coming to town and changing everything has a lot of grounding in grindhouse cinema and pulp revenge stories, but at the same time, Mafia City also touches on the way that change is systemic. It hits topics like the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. So how do you balance that with the fact that Lincoln is a one man hurricane?
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