"The Family" Business

According to Zynga's figures, Mafia Wars now claims 26 million active players, many of them playing online games for the first time. But thanks to Zynga's shady business practices, the browser game may not be the best ambassador for the form. Allen Varney dives into the seedy underbelly of Mafia Wars and learns firsthand how hard it is to walk away.

Literature and films have done much to illuminate the inner workings of the Mafia on behalf of the law-abiding public. But the videogames that have tried to explore these themes typically opt for amusement over insight. Shawn Williams wonders what it would take for game developers to make a true-to-life Mafia game.

When most gamers think of mob gangs, they gravitate toward titles like Mafia and Grand Theft Auto. But one series has continued to offer a distinctly Eastern take on organized crime: Sega's Yakuza. Pat Miller looks at the original Yakuza and what its good-hearted gangsters suggest about Japanese culture.

Most stories about the Mafia are tragedies, depicting great but flawed characters who are laid low by fate. Unfortunately, this tragedy doesn't usually make it into Mob games, with one notable exception: Grand Theft Auto 4. Brendan Main examines what makes GTA IV's Niko Bellic a different breed of videogame criminal.