Online mafia game infiltrates students’ lives

May 2, 2008 — by Emily Chen and Gautham Ganesan

Senior Daniel Yang rushes home after school and logs on to his computer, tentatively maneuvering his way to an online forum to discover the unthinkable: he has been killed.

No, Yang is still alive and well in a physical sense, but his online Mafia persona has been eliminated. Mafia, a popular campfire game in which players are assigned roles as either a member of the “mafia,” or a “civlian,” has found its way online. Members of the mafia choose a civilian to “kill” during the night phase of the game, while civilians try to figure out who the mafia is during the day phase.

The web edition of this game has become popular among students to the extent that some created a separate forum in which to conduct the game.

“People were talking about it at school, and I heard about it and thought, ‘Oh, that sounds fun,’” said junior Alexei Gousev.

Students are assigned their individual roles by a moderator, who serves as the “God” in the round.

“One person will be in charge of a game, and they’ll [tell] whoever wants to play [to] sign up and the person in charge will assign roles,” said senior Wendy Mu.

Although there are differences between the online and real-life versions, the principle is the same: If accused of killing a civilian, participants must come up with a defense to maintain their innocence.

“One ‘day’ is like three real-life days. You have to go back to day one and look at what people said and [say], ‘Oh, that sounds suspicious, defend yourself,’” said Gousev.

The dialogue concerning the game is not confined to only the forum chatrooms, as students have been known to converse about the games at school as well.

“I think that people analyze things a little bit more. In some games, you can talk to people outside of the forum, so you can have conversations with some of the players,” said Mu.

Though most participants are also in involved in a host of other activities, they find that online Mafia allows a chance to relax and reconnect with friends.

“It’s just something fun outside of homework and stuff,” said Mu. “It’s kind of like talking to your friends except playing a game.”

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