Optionals Focus: Mafia

by Owen Harkins

On Monday and Tuesday, campers enjoyed the first round of Optionals, also known as mandatory fun. Campers had the opportunity to sign up for a number of planned activities, including Capture the Flag, Ultimate Frisbee, and Arts and Crafts. I led the classic camp game Mafia on Monday. To play, campers sit in a circle and are secretly assigned to one of two factions: the mafia or the townsfolk. In each round, players close their eyes, and the mafia members secretly decide on a target to eliminate from the game. When the players open their eyes, they deliberate on who they think the mafia are and vote on one player to eliminate. However, only the mafia know if it really was one of their own members who was eliminated, or if it was just an innocent member of the townsfolk. The last group standing will be declared the winner, but it’s never fully clear to the townsfolk how close they are to victory or defeat.

None of the campers have great poker faces, but all of them have a lot of fun trying to reason out who among them is a traitor. And because of the limited information everyone has, it’s a great opportunity to share ideas and work together. In my group of 14, not a single camper was left out of the discussion during the game. Though some campers are natural leaders, the fact that no one knows another player’s true motivation allows all of them to make their own judgements. Thus, Mafia is a great activity for campers to interact with new people