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Spoilers for the creepy amusement park bit in Mafia 3

Butch:

Ok, played.

Well, then. Now THAT’S some themes. Where’s THAT been the last few sessions?

So yes, the carnival was nicely creepy, as carnivals are. But having to go through that ride with the horribly racist story, and how “the negro” lost his way, and turned savage, but then found God again RIGHT BEFORE all of that was…something. It almost….ALMOST…had the “kill the doctors in mad blood lust only to realize you are a monster” vibe of TLOU. “These racist fucks think that they’re better? Well, my liberal ass will show THEM!” Almost. I’m not going to give it THAT much credit, but it certainly was effective at mood and provocation of thought.

I know you have some thoughts, so here ya go. Thinkin’ time.

And there’s no way a public hanging was an accident. Nope. That’s a…somewhat racially charged thing, that is. Especially when it then cuts to the documentary about how Lincoln was trained in psychological warfare, and this was being used to scare.

But…I gotta ruminate on this. I highly doubt that the game was trying to say “Why, the racist asshats were right! The black man IS crawling up out of the swamp to murder us all!” This game is not racist propaganda, right? They CAN’T be saying “Lincoln, and by extension, the player, is just as bad as the Dixie mob,” right? So what ARE they saying? They certainly WANT to be saying something, with that ride, and lynching imagery and all that, but what? It would be kinda tacky if they’re just using all that to create some emotional, but substanceless gut punch.

I’ll ponder.

Anyway, then I met Emmanuel. I like that this game, unlike so many games, unlike so many everythings, makes it clear that “black” is not a unified front. I liked Emmanuel as a character.

Which is why I’m very disappointed that I have no fucking idea where his boat is. He’s all “Everything you need is in the boat.” Oooookaaaaay. And the boat is…..? There’s no boat.

I’m the worst drug dealer ever.

So I gave up and just met Vito. Did you go to Vito or Burke? Cuz I just met Vito.

But one of the problems with this game: You play a scene and you think “DUDE we’re gonna get, like, three days bloggage out of this!” Then you play a couple more hours and you thing “Good thing we’re gonna get three days bloggage out of that, because if we don’t, the next three days are gonna be nothing but ‘Well, killed Kevin. You?'”

Cuz after that very good, very thought provoking scene (still trying to figure out what I think about it), I did the WHOLE union protection racket and killed one of the warehouse enforcers and…well…. Ok, some good Kevin killin’ levels, some good playboys….but not a whole lot to blog on other than that.

And it’s irritating, because I WANT to get on with the story. I do. I’m LIKING the story when it actually shows up. But there’s no way to skip over the whole blowing up trailers and blowing up warehouses and killing Kevins bits. They’re not side quests. Two hours or more of Kevin slaughtering JUST to get to the next story bit. You have no choice.

And that kinda sucks. Most games, there’s the main story mission right there at the top of the quest list. Right there. You can go do it if you really want to. And even when you can’t (say, getting to Skellege in TW3, until you had the coin), there’s other story based things to do. Shit, in THIS game, for the first part of the game, there were missions that had “Main story” on them. Not anymore. And that’s weird and annoying cuz sometimes, most times, you just want to let Kevin be and go on with the story.

Now, if you’re telling a LINEAR story, fine. Uncharted, Tomb Raider, sometimes you gotta kill Kevin to move on. But if you have a game that’s open world, that has choice, you have GOT to let the player choose how and when to proceed. This? This IS linear, but not, all at the same time.

And there I go again, saying this game is trying to do things “all at the same time.” That never, EVER works.

Feminina:

It is true, there’s a lot of non-story in between the story bits. I smuggled some weed last night.

The whole thing where both of us talked to the guy and then thought “well, where’s the boat though?” So…turns out the boat is indicated by a marker on the map. Yeah…we keep talking about how there aren’t a lot of quest icons on the map, and then we totally miss one.

It’s way down south, on the coastline. Purple, picture of the marijuana leaf.

And yeah, that was some story bit, huh?

My take on the amusement park is that the game is not saying “watch out white people, a scary black man really is coming to get you,” but that Lincoln the character IS saying that to the people he’s after. If that makes sense.

I mean, the whole loup-garou story in the amusement park is, as you noted, troublingly racist and also basically a dramatization of the fact that slaveholders live in fear of slave uprisings. Somewhere under their justifications they know that people don’t like being slaves, and they’re constantly terrified of the fact that some of those people, somewhere, sometime, are going to do something about it. Which IS basically a fact, considering we know slave rebellions happened a lot.

And, in the story, you can successfully pacify them with religion and get them to believe that even though things suck right now, everything’s going to be great later after they’re dead, which is a pretty good redirection and a nice happy ending for the story, but in real life it’s still scary to think about how they might not actually buy that argument.

And I feel like the obvious lynching image when he hangs the dude from the Ferris wheel also ties back to the related white fear that if they ever get a chance, non-white people (even if they aren’t slaves) will treat us the way we’ve treated them, which was of course totally fine and justified at the time and those people shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it but which would be really terrible if it happened to us because we’re so special and awesome and stuff.

The documentary dude talking about Lincoln’s skills at psychological warfare I think is pointing at this: that this is a statement Lincoln is making, specifically directed at the guys he’s going after. “I know what you’re afraid of, and yes, I’m going to make it happen.”

So…very interesting, very themey, big story. I kind of just sat there after it saying “wow, that was…a thing.”

And then, as you say, we wander off and kill a few hundred more Kevins. Which…I don’t know, it’s fine, I don’t know that I want to be facing this level of intensity in the story all the time. You want to take a break! Sneak around! Murder some dudes! Run some weed! Steal a few cars and listen to the radio while you drive around!

But I get what you’re saying, that these less-engaging steps in the story can also feel like an interruption in the momentum, and a chance for the urgency and intensity to drain away.

Hm.

Butch:

Of COURSE it’s way down in the bayou. Not by the dock RIGHT THERE, but somewhere we’ve never been.

It’s a boat chase, isn’t it?

As for the park story…Hmm. Well, as for its racist nature, did you listen to the radio when the news was saying that the reason the place closed down was because of civil rights activists protesting the racist imagery? Couldn’t tell if that was 21st game devs apologizing or what.

So you read all that as indication that, yes, Lincoln is the angry black man coming, but that’s somehow noble? That what Lincoln is doing is akin to the slave revolts that the plantations were scared of (and that would have been totally noble and justified)?

I can see that, and maybe that was what they were going for, but, again, the problem crops up that Lincoln isn’t all that noble. He’s not really noble at all. Nat Turner, fighting the good fight to free his oppressed people he is not. He’s out for his own personal revenge and own personal fortune.

Them treating us the way we treated them, again, would make more of an impact, or, at the very least more of a consistent theme, if Lincoln was killing dudes for more altruistic reasons.

Maybe that is what they’re going for. In addition to the news report about the racist rides, did you hear the “voice of the hollow”‘s report after the scene? Here’s a real, honest to God civil rights activist praising Lincoln, talking about how the racists brought this on themselves, and black people have to stand up and fight, and whoever is doing this (Lincoln) is a hero for the cause and all that. But….he isn’t. I think it’s the game trying to say “See? He’s a hero! After all, if the civil rights activist says this is civil rights activism, it must be!” But…it isn’t.

I’m curious as to whether they stick with this idea when I kill…whoever it is I’m trying to kill right now. Grecco? Is he a guy?

I had the same reaction to the ending. Quite the thing.

And well, yes, sometimes you want to just sneak and murder and listen to music. But sometimes you don’t.

And most open world games let you choose! To go back to TW3, there was always some story thing, but there was also always some contract or find a handaxe or participate in a horse race thing as well. Horizon was the same way: always a story mission, but you could just mess around at a hunting ground or whatever. Whenever you booted it up, you could choose. Take your breaks from the story if and when you wanted them.

Here, you can’t. I guess you could make things move a little faster by not killing the enforcers ahead of time, but you still have to do at least a couple of things before you do the racket boss, and you have to do BOTH racket bosses (who, let’s face it, are just mega-Kevins) before you move the story. No matter what. You’re at a point where you want to move the story and can’t? Tough. You’re at a point where you just want to kill Kevin but it’s the last level and there’s gonna be “a thing,” tough.

And in an open world game, hmm, indeed.

ESPECIALLY in a game where the studio’s tagline is “Every player’s story is different” or whatever. It is? How? Just if I choose not to do some weed related boat chase? Kill a racket boss or two and change my earn? Hardly changes the story.

Maybe there’ll be some ME/Divinity thing where our decisions re letting racket bosses live or not doing weed chases turns out to matter in the late game after all, but so far, I sure don’t feel like my story is different. Or that I have any agency to change it.

Feminina:

Yeah, I don’t really know if I buy that every player’s story is different. It feels very much like a game with a specific story, and you do that story, and maybe the order in which you do things varies, but not the substance of it. I mean, there are all those people you can choose to either kill or recruit (I recruit them all, I mean…money, right?), and maybe that makes a difference somewhere down the line? But otherwise, it’s mostly you being pointed at targets, and then going out and getting them. There aren’t a lot of choice points.

And…I don’t really have a problem with Lincoln not being noble, and I don’t really feel like the game is saying he’s noble (although that could be just my read on it).

I feel like he’s using peoples’ fears against them on his way to get revenge, and there are some people who think that’s a great blow for civil rights and some people think it’s a terrible blow against the rightful order, and some people (Father James) who think it’s regrettable violence, and in reality it’s a complicated, mostly personal thing that he’s doing that has a variety of good and bad impacts on the larger world, none of which he’s necessarily planned or thought through.

I feel like it’s saying that people have their own reasons for doing things, and often they do terrible things for what they argue are good reasons, and some people have better cause than others to be justly angry, but…no, I don’t think Lincoln sees himself as a civil rights hero, and I don’t think the game is saying he is one.

Maybe he does some good on the side, in that some of the people he kills are genuinely awful racist dirtbags, but he’s mostly killing them as part of his revenge plot. It’s the mafia. People don’t set out to take over organized crime so they can do good deeds in the community.

But maybe they do some on the side, either to increase support or by accident. (Interestingly, we saw Sammy doing good deeds with his soup kitchen, it was even implied that he spent too much being nice to people, and look what happened to him.) Honestly, I would find the game harder to swallow if Lincoln were presented as having pure, altruistic motives, just because…who gets into organized crime out of altruism?

I don’t know, I may be overly generous, but so far I’m feeling OK with the fact that the game is just saying “hey, this guy in a particular situation was justifiably angry, and he did some stuff that wasn’t exactly good as a result, but you can think about it for a while, and murdering Kevin sure is fun, right?”

It sure is, game. It sure is.

Oh–and the weed running isn’t actually a boat chase, it’s just puttering around in a boat. It’s actually very low stress, it’s just a very long drive to get down there.

And speaking of that, it does give you another chance to talk to Emmanuel, who as you noted earlier is a nice instance of the game not having people have the same agenda just because they’re both black. Emmanuel doesn’t have much patience with Lincoln (and certainly doesn’t view him as some sort of hero), which is interesting. I also appreciated that even though Cassandra signed off on the partnership, HE hasn’t just forgotten about the death of Baka.

I mean, he still works with us, but it’s nice that they didn’t just say “oh yeah, everyone’s cool, this dude killed our leader but water under the bridge.” We commented on that earlier, so I think it’s fair to note that the game is better about at least gesturing towards long-term consequences than we thought it might be.

Butch:

There really aren’t a lot of choice points. And yes, maybe, MAYBE they’re pulling an “Ah ha! You thought it didn’t matter!” But….I doubt it.

As for your take on Lincoln’s actions…Hmm. Ok, I see that. Lincoln is some sort of Rorschach test of how you feel about what he’s doing in the larger context? That here’s a guy doing his thing, and you see what you see? That maybe history is full of that? That people who we THOUGHT were this, that or the other thing weren’t, and we just saw what we wanted to see in them?

(Speaking of which, where the hell did Father James go? He was an interesting character.)

And no, the game isn’t saying he’s a civil rights hero, per se. But certainly some people IN the game see it that way. The Voice of the Hollow certainly sees Lincoln that way.

The game does let you think about things for a while. That it does. That scene was certainly a thing.

But while we’re talking on whether the game is talking about civil rights in some larger context or not, one thing we haven’t seen the game talk about in a larger context is the war. We know that Lincoln was a veteran, we know Donovan was, and that Donovan REALLY HATES COMMUNISTS. Indeed, we have commie propaganda as a collectible. But what we haven’t seen in the counterpoint to that. While we have seen enough to ponder the complexities of white/black, or even black/black, we haven’t seen much in terms of “it’s good to hate commies/no, the war was unjustified.” We’re only getting the first one, really.

And I guess we could say “This game is really about family, and what’s war got to do with it?” But damn….pulling down commie posters? That’s loaded, isn’t it?

The Emmanuel parts, yeah, that is good. When this game decides to be good, it’s good. I’ll give it that. That’s why it’s all the more frustrating that it has such long, unavoidable periods between the good.

Feminina:

Pulling down commie posters is a bit loaded, and yeah, I do kind of wonder where they’re going with that, if anywhere.

Especially because a couple of the posters (or one, anyway, I feel like they repeat so I may have seen the same one multiple times) specifically mention equality. I mean…we’re into equality…maybe we could at least wonder about communism’s take on it, compared to the one we’re living in, which might not seem all that successful to, you know, anyone who was paying attention?

And especially because there was a definite angle with race and the war–black men specifically questioned why they should go fight in a war and kill people who weren’t white, just because some white men were all worked up about it. So there could be something there, but you’re right, we haven’t really seen it explored.

Butch:

Hmm. Yeah I saw that equality one. That’s really the only one. I’m only collecting stuff with boobs.

What?

But it’s also interesting that the guy who seems the angriest about communism is a “good guy.” Though I still don’t trust him.

Feminina:

Yeah, I don’t trust Donovan either. I mean, I trust that he’s on our side in the sense that he’s helping Lincoln take down the mob. We know he does that because he’s already been helpful, and because he testifies to Congress that he did it. (Unless he’s lying in that footage, which is possible…)

But I don’t trust that his motives necessarily align with Lincoln’s. It seems like he may well have his own agenda here. He seems a bit…fixated on something, which may not be what Lincoln is fixated on. And, perhaps, Lincoln also doesn’t necessarily trust him, but is willing to use his information anyway, because hey. If we can be useful to each other, we can work together.

Butch:

Well, his intel on Doucet was good.

It is interesting that a) he seemed perfectly content to admit to a bunch of murders under oath, which suggests he had some authorization but b) Congress didn’t seem to know he was involved….

Hmm.

Feminina:

Well, he didn’t really admit to murder, did he? He admitted to helping Lincoln Clay take down the mob in New Bordeaux. As far as we know (as of this point in the game), he only ever helped by providing information, which is definitely important and means he’s definitely implicated, but it’s not exactly the same, legally, as actually killing someone yourself.

At least, I wouldn’t think so. You’re the lawyer.

Conspiracy, sure. Murder, I don’t know.

Butch:

Dude, he was asked point blank: “Did you help Lincoln Clay MURDER every member of the Marcano crime family?” To which he answered “You’re Goddam right I did.”

Generally, we lawyers say that is an admission to, at least, accessory to murder.

Either way, he admitted to a serious crime under oath, rather glibly. To Senators that didn’t seem to know he did it.

Feminina:

OK, fair. He was, if nothing else, unconcerned enough about it to not bother clarifying the point.

If he wanted to be careful about how much guilt he was admitting to, he could certainly have said “yes, but I only provided information” or something. Leaving the term “murder” completely unchallenged does suggest that he either killed some of those people himself at some point, and/or was confident enough that he wouldn’t be charged with anything that it wasn’t worth bothering about to him.

“Murder, help murder, whatever–it was all worth it in the service of the great anti-communist cause!”

Or whatever his personal cause turns out to be.

Butch:

And one would think that if he was being protected from legal fallout by the government, then the Senators would know….

Confusing.

I have a feeling we’ll find out.

Feminina:

Well, it’s the CIA. They have kind of a reputation for not telling people things.

I mean, they’re also only supposed to work outside the U.S., rather than plotting mob power transfers inside the country, so who knows.