Mafia Wars as a Metaphor for Life

April 2, 2009 · 3 comments

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time playing Mafia Wars on Facebook lately.  And by “inordinate” I mean probably around 1/2 an hour per day – which is kind of a lot of time for me to spend on anything that’s not work- or blog-related.

Mafia Wars is pretty simple, but can be time consuming – like life.  If I’ve found a point to the game at all (like life), it’s to level-up by accumulating “experience points”.  Life is all about experience for me – trying new things and getting more experienced at the ones I’ve already done.

Here’s a link to the rules of Mafia Wars, if you want full details (or want to try it out yourself).  What follows is a run-through of the basics.  I disclaim any and all responsibility for your impressions of the game itself.

Mafia Wars:

You’ve got limited resources – health, energy, stamina, money.  Health and stamina are used for “fighting”, which includes both “attacking” and “robbing” others playing the game.  I won’t get into the “hired gun” aspect here.  Both attacking and robbing (if successful) will yield you money and experience points, but will deplete your health and stamina.  Your health is depleted by some metric unknown to me, and your stamina is depleted by one each time you attack or rob someone.  You can spend money to heal your character at the hospital – talk about instant gratification.

Money can buy weapons, vehicles, and property, but not experience.  Properties add to your income on a regular basis.  As in life, some of your weapons, vehicles, and property have “upkeep” – which amounts to a debit of your accounts.  Speaking of money, there’s also a bank (which takes a 10% “laundering fee” on deposits) – so you’re not walking around with all your money in your pocket.  If you’re not using the bank, it’s possible to lose all your money when another player attacks you.

So besides fighting and robbing, the other (and more efficient) way to get experience points is to “do jobs”.  Doing jobs depletes your energy.  Energy is replaced one point every 2 minutes, and you can’t buy more.  As you “master” jobs and level-up, you get “profile” points, which you can use to increase your maximum health, energy, stamina (and the “attack” and “defense” capabilities of your character).

You also have a “mafia”, which is your network of other players.  The number of mafias you’re in depends upon how many people invite you, and vice-versa.  Your maximum number of mafia members is 501.  I don’t have that many friends – on Facebook or in life.  Anyone can be in your mafia, but only a select few can be in your “top mafia”.  The number of players in your mafia – and the levels of each of those in your top mafia – give you an upper-hand in fighting and robbing (and allows you to share in the spoils of other’s victories).


In life, I have limited resources – time, energy, money, etc.  “Levelling-up” in life is not nearly as simple as in Mafia Wars, but it consists of similar aspects.  I have to be efficient in my use of my resources.  I can’t spend all my time on one thing, or I’ll get burned-out and neglect the other aspects of my life, which can be just as fulfilling.

In life, money can buy me things that enhance my experiences or allow me to experience new things.  Buying a kayak allows me to learn something new, meet new people, and get exercise.  Buying a car allows me to get to new places.  Buying new clothes allows me to make a good impression when I meet new people.  Et cetera, and so on.  Some of these things are analagous to the property feature of Mafia Wars, in that they in some way or another enable me to increase my income.

But money is a limited resource and, as in Mafia Wars, I have to “do jobs” to get it.  Energy is also a limited resource in Mafia Wars and in life.  I have to be careful in how I expend my energy in both.  In Mafia Wars, I can’t keep doing the same job over and over again.  I have to master each job individually before I can master the level.  The same goes for life.  I have to prioritize my tasks at work and spread my energy out over many things.  If I spend all my time doing the same thing over and over, I may well master a particular aspect of a particular task, but I’m then neglecting other duties and not getting any good at them.  I also have to prioritize among work, blogging, and recreation.  I have to find a balance among these things.

Without getting too far into the analogy – which, believe me, is something I can certainly do – the biggest thing I’ve learned from Mafia Wars is that I have to spend some money to get some money.  I have to spend money on clothes, gear for recreational activites, car washes, and the like.  Feeding money into a bank account and sitting on it doesn’t hatch money-babies, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, dear reader. 

I also have to continually try new things.  Besides simply having new experiences, trying (and succeeding or failing) new things keeps my brain loose and allows me to better accomplish things in the future.  It also keeps me from being paralyzed by fear of the unknown. 

All that said, here’s a final tip:  Mafia Wars is a metaphor for life, it is not life itself.  No less than three people have promoted me to “mastermind” in their top – presumably based on the fact that they’re aware of my Mensa membership.  Promote the member of your mafia who has the highest level to mastermind – the smart guy in real life isn’t necessarily the most successful character in Mafia Wars.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

$@bs April 2, 2009 at 11:03

A bunch of peeps have sent me requests to join their mafias, which I did. I never knew what in hell I was doing. Actually I still don’t! Am I missing out?


Tee Kay April 8, 2009 at 13:14

I’m with $@bS. I don’t get the point – even as a vague metaphor for life.

I’ve been playing for a bit – I cash flow $9+ mil, have over a Billion in the bank and a crazy amount of properties.

But still, what or why am I doing this? I log on, click the button to do jobs till the energy is gone, repair properties, buy some stuff then make a deposit.

Actually, as a metaphor for life it shows how completely, robotic and mundane it can be.

Is there a way to transfer my holdings to another member?

I’d like to start a new real life, but every time I try to get out…


Wes Maoz November 12, 2009 at 22:29

i love mafia wars! great blog, keep up the good work! i’ll definitely be back.


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