Chapter 1

The Greatest Mafia Player in the World: An Essay


Perhaps it is not the question of who is the greatest mafia player in the world, but how someone would determine this. This question is the first step that needs to be taken, a pre-requisitive of sorts. Just as the methodology is crucial to the experiment, the inner workings of this sub-question are a necessity to my final objective. And this is what I will be discussing in this introduction.

To start off, I conducted a poll, asking random people on discord what makes a mafia player good. I've published the results here, although I admit that this is one of the most unscientific ways to gather data that I could ever imagine. (The exact question was "If you had to desrcribe what makes a mafia player good in 1 sentence, what would it be? Fast replies required. Warning: Results may be published, although names will not be attached", and follow up questions about the substance of the question were mostly left up to the respondents' interpretations). Luckily, this isn't moving towards any type of conclusion; it's just to show that there are a wide variety of opinions on this subject, even within a small sample size. The complicated and open-ended nature of this question creates more questions than answers, among them being whether you should focus on village or wolf play more (and it seems as though many respondents did, in my own subjective opinion, value the former more than the latter in this question). Indeed, the fact that there not one but two types of performance that need to be evaluated makes this task incredibly difficult.

Graph 1: Informal Discord Poll
Raw Data (responses)
"Flexibility Understanding Practice Exposure"
""For every reason you have for believing someone to be scum, try to think of five reasons why they could be town. For every reason you have for believing someone to be town, try to think of five reasons why they could be scum.""
"Communicating ideas effectively, and cooperating well with the rest of the players."
"for town i think its just about knowing the difference between what mafia actually do vs just things people think mafia do but they don't. for scum idk there's even more variety but i'd say its about being able to fake the weird inconsistent thoughts townies have."
"if someone has good instincts, a lot of dedication, and is charismatic for whatever medium they're playing in, those things can take you a long way i think"
"Ability to read tone and intent through text."
"Overall good mafia player : Town Read widely and is able to push for his agenda effectively"
"Adaptability and a free flowing style of play that can still be successful in a variety of situations"
"Strong, handsome, totally cool, likes coffee, neurotic, whenever the player enters the thread each device the other players use start to play Imperial March from Star Wars tbh"

I see everything from confidence to WIM to deceptive ability to reads to communication to flexibility.

Who am I to determine which one of these particular traits are correct? Who am I to determine whether any particular trait is correct? The truth of the matter is that this would not be much of an essay if I were to argue for anything of this nature. It would more be a one-sided rant that provided no agreed upon reasoning. I have my own opinions, of course, but again, these have no place in a piece of writing such as this.

And even if I were to determine what, exactly, constituted skill, I am unsure how this could be measured in any type of way that would allow me to answer my question. I may be lacking the brainpower and capabilities of people smarter than me, but qualitative quantities such as these are more in the realm of philosophers than someone like me. In fact, the traditional way of measuring qualities such as this- surveys, and sociological approaches- are beyond the scope of this essay and too much work to boot.

In short, going down this route is not effective, although this essay will inevitably touch upon these traits at some point.

So: if subjectivity of this alone is not sufficient enough, the next logical conclusion would be to look at statistics. I rather subjectively declare that this is flat-out wrong.

"Don't become a mere recorder of facts, but try to penetrate the mystery of their origin"

- Ivan Parvalov (you can learn more about him here)

You just cannot simply say performance. Mafia is a team game, and an individual outcome is dependent on the arbitrary nature of the rand and the respective effort and skill levels of your teammates. To say that someone is good because they win one game is bad logic; to say that someone is good because they win many games is fallacious yet again. There is no benefit to results-oriented thinking, as every single mafia game has at least a semblance of luck involved. Even a stellar consistent performance in this regard is irrelevant; there would need to be an incredible number of games to have any sort of statistical significance. Hundreds and hundreds of games, all documented with winrates not just for the single player but for all players involved, would be an absolute necessity in order to determine that someone had a tangible impact on the game in a consistent way.

I would and could bring up examples of people who have incredibly low winrates and are regarded as an excellent mafia player, and some examples of the opposite. But my goal here is not to step on any toes, and besides, my ultimate objective is to prove who is objectively the best, and this very type of anecdotal, subjective, and undoubtedly biased examples would run contrary to my aim.

Even if the data WAS available, I still argue that this is not close to proving that this person would be the objective best. Even if you operate under the assumption that a mafia player is "good" because they win games- something that I will be contesting later in this essay- there is no way to tell for certain that there is not somebody better. Someone with an 80% winrate could be far surpassed by a person with a 99% winrate; someone with a 99% winrate could be bested still by a 100%. At the very best, and even if you ignored the fact that it is unwise to go this route, I could perhaps find the best mafia player on MU. Or maybe not.

Quite a conundrum we have when perhaps one of the most indubitably objective measures of success- results themselves- fall far short in being able to determine the answer to the question that I am resolving to answer.

The truth? There are no easy answers.

In this essay, I will be relying on as much philosophy of skill as I am relying on objective facts, and relying on as much common sense as I do evidence. The best arguments do not rely on a single premise or theory to get across their point; the best arguments combine many layers of thought into one final results. And I do not intend to take this assignment lightly. Mafia may be a game, but this is no joke. Just like any academic subject or argument can learn from others, I intend to use research and stratgies from many disciplines over the course of this essay. I'll be quoting not only from Mafia Universe, and not only from other mafia sites, but also from the greatest thinkers that this world has ever seen, with an emphasis on philosophers, who have created the guiding principles that determine almost all of our worldly values (of which this is included!). Only after an extensive research process will I be able to determine who is, in fact, the objectively best mafia player.

I will keep this page updated with my progress.