This word has come to be synonymous with any organized crime group, though it once just referred to la cosa nostra. Its origins are obscured by time, but I have been told it has two possible origins. One theory it comes from the Arabic word for refuge. The other is it is that is an acronym for “Death To the French Is Italy's Cry”. In Italian that is “Morte Alla Francia Italia Anelia!”.

Given that both the French (Normans) and Arabs have invaded Sicily either is possible.

Most law enforcement groups agree that today's Mafia is a pale shadow of what it once was. Largely due to changes in immigration patterns and the rise of Colombian, Mexican, and Chinese drug cartels as well as the fierce campaigns against them by the Italian and US governments.

The best-known organized crime group in the U.S. is the mafia, or the Cosa Nostra. The word Mafia is actually an Italian acronym for the phrase "Death to the French' Cry the Italians."
The Mafia originated as groups of fighters recruited by Sicilian landowners in the early 19th century, in reaction to Napoleanic invasions of southern Italy and Sicily.

Eventually, selected groups of the Mafiosi became so powerful that they discarded their fighting pride to overthrow their employers and gain considerable power and wealth. Enough in fact, that they were able to gain political office via terrorist tactics.
After taking control of the law enforcement agencies to legally carry arms, they were suppressed by the Italian government, forcing many of the Mafia leaders to emigrate to the U.S.
In Sicily, the Mafia was finally suppressed by the fascist Italian government during the 1920s.
In the United States, however, the Mafia was gaining substantial power. Prohibition provided an excellent market opportunity, through which the corrupt Italians acquired wealth and power. The organization developed a virtual monopoly on illegal gambling, and significantly penetrated the legal gambling market as well.
The Mafia today comprises a number of semi-autonomous crime families, the heads of which sit on various councils. Membership is by initiation, and leardership is generally at least partially hereditary-unless there is a coup.
A favourite party game throughout my high school life. Produces readily quotable and hilarious results.


In this game, the objective there are citizens, mafia(s) and an inspector. Each group has a different responsibility and goal. There is also a god who decides who is who. This game works best when participants are not drunk, as well as for 6-12 players.

The Game

The game begins with everyone closing their eyes and God choosing mafia(s) and an inspector.
God says: One tap mafia, two taps inspector and goes around the circle tapping people.
One inspector is chosen, and 1-2 mafia depending on the size of the group.

After the tapping is complete, God tells the mafia(s) to open their eyes to acknowledge each other, then close their eyes. The inspector is then instructed to open their eyes to ensure he/she realizes their position.

Everyone is then instructed to open their eyes. The fun begins.

The citizens are trying to figure out who the mafia are by accusing members of the game of being the mafia.
The mafia are trying to mask their identity while accusing others of being the killers.
The inspector is trying to figure out who the mafia are, yet keep their own identity hidden.

After a round of arguments is complete and by majority vote someone is accused of being a mafia, God reveals the identity of the accused. If the accused was a citizen, the citizens have guessed incorrectly and have lost a member of their contigency to the evil mafia. If the accused was a mafia, the citizens have either a) won that game because there was only 1 mafia or b) won that round because 1 mafia remains. God then instructs everyone to close their eyes.

After the first round, if the game is to continue, the following instructions are said.
Mafia, who would you like to kill?
At this point, the remaining mafia open their eyes and point at who they would like to kill. The mafia close their eyes.

Inspector, who would you like to know?
The inspector is then allowed to point at someone they suspect is mafia and God reveals the chosen one's identity. The inspector opens their eyes.

God reveals who the mafia killed that round.

This cycle continues until a) the mafia have killed everyone and have won, or b) the citizens have killed the mafia.

Advanced Strategy

Many different strategies exist that are too complicated to be set down in words. They emerge from consistent game playing and thinking. Most involve lying, picking on someone or telling the truth.

This game is extremely amusing when played correctly. I am a witness to this fact.


There also exists variations to this game, one of which is the introduction of the medic or doctor. This player is chosen by God in the same manner the mafia and inspector are chosen.
The medic is special because he/she has the ability to save players. At the end of each round, after the mafia has designated someone to 'kill', the medic opens his/her eyes and designates someone to 'save'. If the person to be killed is the same as the person to be saved, nobody dies in that round, and the medic now knows who isn't mafia. If the medic chooses the wrong person, then nothing happens. The medic has the ability to heal him/herself.

Organized crime in Italy has traditionally involved three major groups from southern Italian regions: the Mafia in Sicily, the Camorra in Naples and the 'ndrangheta in Calabria, all of which came to prominence following the northern-led unification of Italy in the mid-19th century, in an area already afflicted with considerable bandit activity, although the roots undoubtedly go rather farther back (the suggested etymologies given in other writeups are rather fanciful, though). In recent years a parallel grouping has appeared in Puglia, the Sacra Corona Unita ("united sacred heart"). Although they are all involved in the usual range of criminal operations - anything that will turn a profit - the 'ndrangheta were particularly active in the wave of kidnapping in the 1970s and 1980s, while the Camorra were involved with corruption at central government level, particularly through the former Christian Democrat (DC) party, and had substantial involvement in the cement and construction industry, which together led to the building of rather a lot of pointless infrastructure throughout the Mezzogiorno and by siphoning off emergency relief funds has severely compromised the reconstruction work following recent earthquakes.

The Sicilian Mafia was successfully suppressed during the Fascist ventennio, but was actively revived with the connivance of the United States government (acting through links with the American mafia with Lucky Luciano in a key role) during World War II in return for assistance during the Allied invasion of Sicily (1943) - as a result the American 5th Army landed virtually unopposed while the British 8th Army faced a stiff fight. It took a firm hold in the corruption-rife Italian post-war governmental system and, with a few hiccups, has never looked back since, managing effectively to subvert the best intentioned judicial manoeuvres through bribery, murder and FUD; arrested mafiosi tend to "repent" in ways that take the courts years to disentangle.

For literary coverage of the Italian mafia, the reader is recommended to take a look at the works of Leonardo Sciascia (eg Il Contesto - The trial, and Una storia semplice - A simple story), or less literarily the relevant Aurelio Zen novels by Michael Dibdin and, of course, Mario Puzo.

Mafia, a.k.a. "Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven", developed by Illusion Softworks (Hidden & Dangerous) and published by Gathering of Developers (a Take Two Interactive company) for Windows PC CD-ROM (3 discs), 2002.

Mafia is a single-player action game (mainly focussing on driving and third-person shooting) that utilises Illusion's LS3D engine, a generalised game engine capable of handling a variety of game styles. (This engine is also used for the forthcoming Vietcong.) It tells the story of one Tommy Angelo, a taxi driver in Prohibition-era America who is drawn into a life of crime when he performs a favour for some mafiosi.

Tommy is partnered with two wiseguys, the hard-drinking Paulie (who isn't like Joe Pesci at all) and the accident-prone Sam, under the patronage of Don Salieri (your typical Brando/Sorvino mob boss character). Salieri is a benevolent don who only resorts to violence when people cross him. His rival, Morello, is by contrast a psychopathic thug who uses fear to keep control over his empire.

'Lost Heaven', the fictional city where the game is set, is basically controlled by the mafia with the complicity of the corrupt police force (who like a quiet drink). However, due to Tommy causing a slight 'mishap' involving a corrupt town councillor's son, the police side with Morello's boys and a war between the two families is started in earnest. The whole story (starting with Tommy's induction to the family in 1930) is recounted in flashback in a conversation between Tommy and a detective (Norman) in 1938, where things have reached the point where Tommy wants to rat on his friends to secure police protection.

A cursory inspection of Mafia suggests that it is very similar to Grand Theft Auto III (as it involves a realistic city, driving and shooting), however playing the game shows that they are in fact very different. Mafia trades off the freeform, go-anywhere-do-anything structure for a set of more tightly scripted and confined missions, bookended by extremely high quality in-engine cutscenes. (There are also 'free drive' and 'free drive extreme' modes that allows you to explore the city and perform tasks for money, but this is seperate from the main game.)

Missions generally involve several goals, usually driving to locations followed by other task carried out by car or on foot. One early mission starts out with a rather humdrum drive around to collect protection money, but is given a new spin when reaching the final collection point, the Morello boys have gotten there first, and have taken Sam hostage. This leads to a dramatic shootout in a gas station, followed by a chase through the countryside to retrieve the stolen money.

Other missions involve chases across rooftops, roughing people up by hand, a police raid on a liquor pickup, a complex shootout in an airport to 'eliminate' an escaping snitch, firebombing a brothel, driving a racecar, and loads more. During the course of the game Tommy is taught (by Salieri's mechanic, Ralphy) how to break into various types of car, and more cars come on the market (over 60 in total, with increasingly aerodynamic styling) as time goes on.

The developers have stated that the game does not set out to glorify crime, instead it is intended to let the player experience a few years of a life that is unlike their own, and to see the unvarnished consequences of living outside common morality and the law. Their other ambitious goal was to write the story first without indication of the 'type' of game genre they would use to realise it, leading to an impressively broad variety of objectives and game styles within a consistent framework.

So is the game a success? In my opinion, yes it is. The game is very difficult and puts a lot of emphasis on realism, which many players might be uncomfortable with. For example, you have to observe traffic laws including stopping for red lights and keeping below 40mph in built up areas- and on stopping to recieve a ticket, if you happen to be holding a gun the traffic cop will bat it out of your hand and cart you off to jail!*

You are generally left to your own devices to figure out how to overcome obstacles. Because the game tries to do so much, some areas are less well-developed than others (melee combat is quite poor for example), and the AI, while usually very believable occasionally gets 'stuck'. With these potential faults aside, the game's strengths shine through. This is one of the most atmospheric games ever made, with period music (by Django Reinhardt, The Mills Brothers, Louis Prima and more), authentic looking cars, buildings and costumes and masterful use of sound, lighting and environmental effects (check out the rain and bending trees during the storm at night). Some areas (especially the building interiors) come tantilisingly close to photorealism.

The game, though difficult, autosaves after most major objectives are reached but does not allow players the easy ride of being able to quicksave at any time. When some sections are completed after countless attempts (in particular the racing stage), there is a real sense of achievement. As a simple yardstick, the game is about 500 times better than the overly short, glamourous one-trick pony that was Max Payne, but probably won't suggest replayability to the same extent as Grand Theft Auto III (although I stress again that they're very different games, and both are worthy of inclusion in your collection for different reasons- for instance GTA's plot, such as it is, looks positively adolescent compared to Mafia's).

The game is apparently going to be ported to possibly all three major consoles in the coming months, more info as and when.


*This is a game where ammunition is counted realistically, and trigger-happy enemies eventually run out. Tyres can be shot out, affecting vehicle handling and speed. The weight and distribution of passengers also has an effect. Drivers and passengers can be shot. Collisions cause passengers to take damage (quite funny on the taxi missions - "What the hell?! I almost broke my jaw!") Vehicles show realistic damage. You can fire from the windows of a moving car. Your passengers can too. Enemies and assistants will also roll, dive, crawl away when injured, call for assistance and try to blow up and smash anything explosive near their target.

Etymology of Mafia

-Many people believe that “Mafia” is from the acronym “Morte Alla Francia Italia Anela” (Death to France, cries Italy) but this is not true. Nor does it come from “Mia Figlia” (my daughter). The former is an urban legend, and it makes sense, as the French did invade Sicily. The latter really has no merit whatsoever, as Mafia is really another term for “macho” or “studly.”

-Mafiosi means “friends of the friends” or “gentlemen".

-Mafioso (from a Palermo dialect) means someone bold, or daring.

-Mafia was first used in a play in 1862, and was used in 1865 to justify arresting someone for organized crime. It became a part of the general dialect in 1898, after being published in Harper’s Magazine. It became a part of the standard American vernacular, comparing the Irish mob to the Sicilian Mafia (they were called the Irish Mafia). It was then that the term got associated with the Bootleggers and Gangs in America.

-Other words associated with the “Mafia”, Omertá, for example, along with the ethnic slur “WOP” also have to do with this manliness.

-Omertá, commonly viewed as a “code of silence,” has been thought to come from humiltá(Latin) or umiltá (Italian) , meaning humility, or modesty, but it also represents one’s strength as a man. It has been suggested that another possible origin of the word is from uomo, or man. It is of several people's opinion that this got construed as a silence thing by contrasting it to one of women’s typical (perceived) roles in society: gossipers. Women (typically) have been viewed as good at language, communication. By being silent, one rejects the typical female role and therefore becomes more masculine.

-“WOP,” an ethnic slur against Italians, comes from the word guappo (Italian), meaning handsome or studly. The connotation evolved to mean something like “handsome scoundrel.”

-Other groups of organized criminals also derive their name from the machismo attitude, for example ‘NDragheta (a group of scoundrels from Calabria) came from the Greek word Andros which means man.

Ma"fi*a (?), n. [It. mafia.]

A secret society which organized in Sicily as a political organization, but is now widespread among Italians, and is used to further or protect private interests, reputedly by illegal methods.


© Webster 1913.

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