When the scene pictured above showed up in Google Image Search, I knew it was the one for me to use in this post. Mafia II has thus far consisted of a lot of driving to Joe's house and then driving home. And then driving to Joe's house. And then driving home. And then stealing some things, and then driving to Joe's house, and then driving home. And then going to prison for 6 years, scrubbing toilets, and fighting guys in the shower in order to avoid being sodomized. I say all of this in utter seriousness. There have been a handful of occasions where I have enjoyed running around and shooting at rival mobsters, but the aforementioned "missions" have probably made up at least two thirds of the portion of the game that I have played through so far. I do admire the game for its breaks from convention, contrived as they may be.
Perhaps a less conventional pairing would have been more appropriate for a game that is, at times, surprisingly off-the-wall. I have written before about both avoiding and embracing obvious choices when pairing video games with booze, and this time I chose to embrace the incredibly obvious. Earlier tonight, when sitting down to my fourth or fifth session with Mafia II, I opened a bottle of Cusumano Nero D'Avola. This fairly ubiquitous Sicilian red has a boozy aroma of cherry hard candy. In addition to this sour fruitiness, it tastes of earth and smoke, with liberal tannic bitterness to balance it out. It reminded me that any wine that I normally wouldn't drink without food to buffer it probably shouldn't be paired with a video game unless I have food on hand to buffer it. Unfortunately, I ate all of my leftover cassoulet before I started playing Mafia II, so I was out of luck.
This pairing was obvious, though not as superficial as some that I have described in the past. Mafia II, unlike many video games, immerses the player in a relatively real and specific culture. Thematic cultural specificity in video games can be a great aid when it comes to finding worthwhile booze pairings, though it can also be a red herring. In this case, I'm afraid it was. Red wines upwards of 14% alcohol by volume usually fail to bolster my resolve when playing games that involve the occasional pressings of buttons to scrub blood out of carpets or load crates onto trucks. These activities may be important for the dedicated mafioso. But just as I prefer my stomping on turtles and traveling through plumbing to be filtered through a colorful, fun-filled interface, there are reasons why I have not tried to join the mob in real life.
I plan to keep playing through Mafia II. If I find a better pairing, I'll be sure to write about it. But there is something far more important going down on this very blog tomorrow night. For the first time, an epic video game and booze pairing will be live-blogged. It will start at 9PM CST. I hope you can make it!