“Spider-Man: Miles Morales”: a modern, community-minded hero

“A hero is just a guy who doesn’t give up.”
I’ve loved Spider-Man for as long as I can remember, both the amazing powers and the incredible responsibility brought with them. Truly, he is one of the best superheroes out there.
When you think of a Spider-Man game, you imagine swinging from buildings and punching bad guys in the face. In the latest game, “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” you get to do that and so much more.
“Spider-Man: Miles Morales” is the semi-sequel to the original 2018 game for PS4, “Marvel’s Spider-Man.” 2020’s “Miles Morales” follows the title character, a black-Hispanic teenager who, like Peter Parker, has also been bitten by a radioactive spider and given incredible powers.
Miles is based off the comic book “Ultimate Spider-Man,” which sees a new character wear the mask and take up the legacy. Miles has just moved to Harlem and is still figuring his way around, often lost and alone in a community that knows everyone.
The gameplay is no less than incredible. A single button lets you cast a web and swing from the buildings of New York. Fighting criminals is incredibly satisfying, as your Spider-Sense gives away their attacks.
You can dodge, leap off walls, web up enemies and toss them around like a game of football. You’re equipped with many gadgets that aid in battle, such as holo-drones, electric-bombs, and a gravity-well that draws enemies closer.
The game was developed by Insomniac Games, founded in 1994 by Ted Price. They’re best known for creating games such as “Spyro,” “Ratchet and Clank,” and most recently, “Spider-Man.”
Insomniac was an independent studio until 2019. Named one of the best video game companies by IGN, they joined forces with Sony that year.
While the story of “Miles Morales” is half the length of the original, it holds twice as much heart. The strength of the game comes from the characters you meet in Harlem. The writers treat them as real people existing in the town.
The many side missions see you going out of your way to help them. How? Fixing the plumbing issue at a homeless shelter, retrieving stolen toys for children, clearing ice from cranes, and helping to deliver food to the needy during the holidays.
There is a massive focus on the ‘neighborhood’ in friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. I really felt like I was a part of a community, and not just their watchful protector.
There are clear themes of racism too, such as when a local energy company develops a faulty resource in Harlem since they see it as a failing neighborhood. Most of the characters in this game are of different ethnicities, and primarily of color.
There is even a Black Lives Matter mural located in the town, which is also where the people of Harlem gift you a unique Spider-Man suit for all the things you’ve done for them. You look out for them, and they return the favor.
I felt sympathy for Miles. It’s bad enough to have to live up to the expectations of your predecessor, but he also has to navigate a new town. He doubts himself, counting his victories as ‘luck,’ despite his mentor’s praise.
The costume he wears at first isn’t even his own, just a baggy version of Peter’s. He has no sense of identity. The game takes the time to show how he learns to accept himself and to set his own standards as Spider-Man. He even changes his costume to better reflect who he is.
Expectations are one of his greatest challenges. He’s expected to move to a new town easily. He’s expected to guard New York alone while Peter is away. He’s expected to be both Miles and Spider-Man.
The entire time, he’s trying to do things the way he was told, but not the way he himself would do it. When he changed his costume to the classic black and red, he was ready to start doing it his way.
“Whenever you say Spider-Man, you always mean the other one!” said Gakne, Miles’s best friend, “You’re Spider-Man. You can fix this your way.”
It’s a coming-of-age story, at its core. Miles is just a kid trying to make his mark on the world. He doesn’t know the right or wrong way to do it, just his own. As the game goes on, his attitude changed and he became his own Spider-Man, instead of an interpretation of someone else.
That’s something I aspire to, to be my own person and not the ‘next edition’ of someone else. I think that’s something we can all do. Don’t be greater, be yourself.