Mafia – School Yard Game

Informant: The informant is my sibling, a Mexican American boy who is 14 years old and currently an 8th grader at a charter school in Los Angeles California. 

Context: The following transcript is a conversation of his explanation of his version of “Mafia” – a schoolyard game that he has been playing for as long as he can remember. Usually, this game is played in large groups of students either inside of a classroom or outside in a schoolyard to pass by time/to enjoy oneself. 


Me: Hey, so what game did you play again? 
J: Mafia! 
Me: When did you play this game? 
J: I played it one day when we couldn’t go to the park for P.E (physical education). 
Me: And….How exactly do you play that game? 
J: I don’t exactly remember, but I do remember that it was really fun. Okay, so what we had to do was that there were different roles in the game. There was the narrator, who had the most power in the game and made the decision of how the game would play out. 
Me: Wait, so you’re telling me this person chooses the other roles as well? 
J: Yeah! Okay, so our teacher Mr. Y would tell us to sit down, with our heads down and our thumbs up. As we were like that, he would tell us closely to listen up and start with the roles with the following line: “Okay! I will be starting with our mafia student, as the mafia, you are out there looking to steal money from the people and eliminate them. If you feel that I tap your shoulder, then that means that you are mafia.” Again, this would also be similar with the sheriffs, but you know instead of sheriffs getting up anything they would just have to guess who the mafia was and “arrest them.” (informant air quotes as he says this). The last two roles are one doctor and one civilian. The doctor saves civilians, but they also run the risk of saving someone who is from the mafia because they don’t know their identity. Civilians have it easy because they don’t need to stand up. They just sit there and enjoy themselves either to get killed or be saved. 
Me: Wait, so how of each number was there
J: Uhm well it all depended on the size of this class and really it all depends on who the narrator is. 
Me: Did you win! Where are you mafia, sheriff, doctor, citizen? 
J: NOOO!! I lost!!! I was the first one to get eliminated (hysterically laughs) Overall, even if I lost, I really enjoyed the game. 


I think is an interesting game to play at such a young age. One would think that this type of game would not be allowed because it involved violence and death. However, it’s interesting to see how violence, and what used to be censors is not so present in our lives because it is seen as means of entertainment. I think the game’s fostering of mistrust among players is what is so particularly appealing to students from all ages (even our little ones) because there is huge degree of uncertainty and suspense to who you can trust and vice versa. In addition, because this game is so competitive it allows for kids to be unashamedly competitive and sneaky against your own friends. Overall, it teaches students the lesson of loyalty, survival and sucess.