When the world seems too bleak I often find myself delving into a video game to occupy my thoughts with imaginary worlds. Which explains why I recently found myself playing Mafia 3, a game where an oppressed protagonist takes revenge upon power hungry racists. Total escape from reality, right?
Although the framework of the Mafia 3 story holds true to the format of most mob related tales of revenge there is something unique about the approach to Lincoln Clay and the people around him. The best thing about Mafia 3 aside from the socially relevant themes of the narrative are Clay’s interaction with the diverse cast of characters he has to work with. The supporting NPC’s are comprised of his three under bosses and their lieutenants, whom you can do side quests for during the game to earn favor and keep people loyal to you as you go after Sal Marcano. It was during one of these side missions that I came to an unexpected revelation in the story.
Upon completing a moonshine smuggling run for Nicki Burke, the daughter and lieutenant of under boss Thomas Burke, a conversation was unlocked. It was a night when I was breezing through side quests before progressing with the main story. The cut scene that followed the completion of this particular mission snapped me out of my side quest trance. It revealed not only that I had gained favor with Nicki Burke but also that she was gay. During a discussion about her father she reveals that she’s been seeing a woman named Darlene. It’s the only time in the game Nicki displays her vulnerable side and Lincoln responds with pure class.
Nicki: So where do you come down on it?
Lincoln: I… I’ve never had much of anything or anyone one, and what little I did have was taken away from me. So if there’s someone out there, doesn’t make a difference to me who it is.
Nicki: When I was a little girl I thought my father hung the goddamn moon, fuck… he was everything to me. But then one day he gave me this look, like he knew. It broke my heart. The first person to crush me was my own father.
Lincoln: You wanna turn your back on him that’s up to you, God knows he deserves it. Whatever you decide, just make sure you can live with it.
Although this is the last time we see Lincoln and Nicki in a cut scene together it’s a great example of how good the writing in Mafia 3 is. This scene handles Nicki Burke’s revelation better than many coming out stories I’ve seen play out on television and film. Lincoln doesn’t judge her but tells her that she needs to do what’s best for herself. It’s one of the few times in the game where Lincoln bonds with another person and it’s not over a shared tragedy or a mutual interest in blowing somebodies head off. They have a real conversation, you remember those? They’re those things people used to have before tweets passed as political policy.
This two-minute exchange is a masterclass in how you gain major ground in story and character development by not beating people over the head with the points you’re trying to get across. Although it would have been nice to have seen Nicki Burke play a major role in the latter half of the game I appreciate the writers and game developers for including her at all. All the under boss lieutenants could have easily just been NPC quest posts with zero development at all. It was nice to have a gay woman depicted as a leader within the IRA in a game like this, despite being at odds with her father and the world around her. Maybe one day we’ll get to play as a character like Nicki in one of these games.