USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Mafia’
Childhood
Game

Mafia

A group of people sit in a circle and close their eyes.  Someone is selected to play God.  God is the narrator of the game, and always someone who has played the game before.  God walks around the circle two times.  The first time he walks around he selects who will be the mafia by tapping a player once on the shoulder.  The second time around he selects the angel by tapping that person twice on the shoulder.

God then says “Mafia wake up?”  The mafia then chooses who they would like to kill by pointing at them. God then says “mafia go back to sleep”.  Then God tells the angel to wake up and asks “Angel who they would like to save”.  The angel can save anyone in the circle including themselves by pointing at them.  God then tells the angel to go back to sleep and the townspeople, which consists of everyone, including the mafia and the angel, to wake up.  God then tells a fictionalized version of the nights “events” where someone was murdered.  The person who was murdered is now out and no longer has to go to sleep when God tells the rest of the townsfolk to, so they learn who the mafia is, but must keep this information a secret.

If the angel chose to save the same person the mafia chose to kill, God will add on a twist ending where the person does not die.  God then narrates a town summit where the townspeople meet to arrest who they believe to be the mafia.  Everyone accuses who they believe to be the culprit and the town takes a vote.  After the vote the person who the town believes to be the mafia “put to death” in a narrative told by God and the townspeople are told to go back to sleep.

The game then repeats from the beginning with God telling the mafia to wake up, then the angel, then the townsfolk.  If the townspeople chose the actual mafia, no one is dead in the morning and the game is over, but if they chose the wrong mafia, another person dies and they rehold the town summit.  The game repeats until the true mafia has been put to death.

My friend used to play the game when she was in high school and they had substitute teachers but it was also a staple game at camps and in any large groups.  The target age are generally adolescents as the subject matter is much darker than other children’s games.

The game is very different from most other folklore that deals with mystery and death in that it turns the sinister topic into a game and makes it fun.  A town plagued by the mafia is not a light subject matter but in the contact of this game if becomes something fun.

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