[Editor’s note: This is a guest editorial from Ebicentre]
Earlier in September, 2018, the mainstream media attacked Insomniac’s PS4-exclusive Spider-Man, accusing it of promoting pro-police authoritarianism that ignores underlying issues with both the real-life New York Police Department and the nature of surveillance states. Of course, we already know this was a stupid argument for the media to make, only serving to further propel Insomniac’s game into the spotlight and continue its already titanic financial and critical success. For many people, the media’s follies didn’t affect their decision to purchase (or not purchase) the game; chances are you’re one of those people who already bought the game before you knew about any of the media’s attempts to stir up a social justice-oriented controversy.
But those same people and the media failed to identify the actual underlying political messages Insomniac’s Spider-Man presents to its audience. If the media took the time to put aside their coordinated effort to tell everyone how much they hate cops, they would find Insomniac to actually be on the media’s side when it comes to core progressive issues.
This article exists to point out those moments for everyone to see and make up their own minds; wherever you sit on the topic of modern politics, the intention is to empower consumers by giving them information they might feel is important for their purchasing decisions. In the interest of disclosure, I must point out I do not own the game and have no intention to do so, so everything I present to you comes from third-party sources that you’re free to verify for yourselves.
The first thing to point out is Insomniac’s team is openly anti-GamerGate, anti-Trump, and anti-‘hate speech’. Insomniac not only condemned President Trump’s (temporary) travel ban, but they also denounced Palmer Luckey for his involvement in the development of anti-Clinton memes. In a Deadspin interview, the journalist felt the need to randomly bring up ‘online harassment campaigns’ with Community Manager James Stevenson. He responded:
“The internet mob can be weaponised against things or even individuals in a way that is scary. It can be scary for people, whether that’s been Gamergate in the past or the current iterations of it. So we actually talk about it a lot internally.
I’m always most concerned about the game developers that are on social media, making sure that they aren’t targets of any sort of harassment. I think we also, as a group, have decided to be very forward about people making comments about… We posted a team photo one time and someone made a comment about someone’s appearance, and a bunch of us immediately got online and were like, ‘Hey, there’s no place for that’.”
Regular readers of One Angry Gamer and frequenters at subreddits like r/KotakuInAction would know the ‘GG is a harassment campaign’ angle is a worn-out and false belief propagated by the media, and nowadays functions as a convenient bogeyman to evoke whenever something inconvenient happens to them or their friends. Insomniac very clearly doesn’t believe this to be the case. Which probably explains why they went out of their way to hire Sam Maggs, a notorious feminist activist who legitimately believes ‘virtual rape’ in Grand Theft Auto V is a real thing. Her role is to write the story for the DLC missions involving Black Cat (whom we’ll touch upon later).
Maggs’ involvement in Insomniac’s Spider-Man raises another topic: the female characters. There has been some debate over Mary-Jane’s role in the game, mainly in regards to her looks and her new profession as a journalist for The Daily Bugle (more info can be found here, but beware spoilers). But in my opinion, these two aspects are not (inherently) cause for concern. Her attractiveness edges more along the lines of personal taste rather than outright hideousness, and her role as a journalist is less outrageous than her Web of Shadows incarnation, where she literally wields a shotgun and fights alongside Luke Cage.
The real cause for concern with MJ has more to do with the political climate we’re living with today. Why did she become a journalist; why is she more prominent? It’s because Insomniac needed a reasonable excuse to involve MJ, a woman, in the story outside of being Peter’s ex-girlfriend – and while by itself that isn’t an issue, it’s how it is done people should pay attention to. Modern progressive writers, in an effort to combat the damsel-in-distress cliché, now rely upon a brand new cliché instead: the female companion deliberately puts herself in harm’s way with an ‘I can help too!’ attitude, tired of constantly being rescued by the man she cares about the most.
And apparently, it seems like Mary-Jane isn’t a fan of President Trump, according to a tweet by YouTuber RazörFist (disclosure: I played a character in one of his videos recreating a lost The Shadow radio episode, viewable here):
It's pretty impressive how gaming media mongoloids can dissect every atom of pro-police authoritarian subtext from the mere act of Spider-Man saving people… yet miss the giant gold 'FISK TOWER' lettering, and M.J. opining aloud: 'Kingpin thinks he's making New York GREAT again'
— FränkenFist (@RAZ0RFIST) September 21, 2018
(This tweet is admittedly my weakest source as I am unable to verify the claim for myself, so I strongly encourage people to find out if this is true.)
Other female characters that need to be called into question are Silver Sable and Black Cat. The former, for some reason, has seen almost no criticism from people whatsoever, especially from the critics who parade the game’s story around as a work of art.
The only people I’ve managed to find pointing her out are users on KiA who argue she is completely untouchable by Spider-Man. All of your interactions with Silver Sable are done via cutscenes and fighting her goons; she has no boss fight and always seems to kick Spidey’s arse with little effort.
I predict this will be rectified in the DLC missions coming out in December, but first impressions suggest Insomniac wanted to use her as a feminist icon for progressives to parade around on social media, because SJWs care more about female characters being invincible and perfect than interesting and good. (And I haven’t even mentioned her more conservative outfit.)
Black Cat’s problem (Sam Maggs aside) is her character design directly contradicts what makes her Black Cat. It seems like everyone is willing to concede she does indeed look ugly, but a lot of people aren’t willing to admit why. Her conservative outfit is yet another example of creators like Insomniac making sure they aren’t attacked by feminists for portraying characters like Black Cat as attractive. When her DLC comes out, you can expect the usual suspects to be out in full force ready to defend her from ‘misogynists’.
Kingpin and Norman Osborn decided it was high time to channel the left’s favourite President Trump caricatures; the former emblazons giant, golden lettering on his private tower, and Osborn ate a few too many couple of ice-cream scoops. And if MJ’s ‘MNYGA’ quip is to be believed, it’s hard to see all of this as anything but subtle jabs at the U.S. President that signal Insomniac’s political beliefs (if their CEO denouncing a Supreme Court-approved motion didn’t tell you this already). If any Insomniac employee disagrees with this, then they can feel free to tell us all about how many Trump supporters work for them and whom feel safe to express such opinions in their offices.
Lastly, there are concerns from gamers that Miles Morales is going to replace Peter Parker in the sequel. This mainly stems from the common Marvel Comics practice of replacing established heroes with ‘diverse’ characters. While it’s likely you’ll be able to play as both Spider-Men in the next game (which would be fine), history suggests Peter is going to die to make way for Miles for both shock value and virtue signalling. Brian Michael Bendis himself confirmed he created Miles because he believes his black daughters care more about skin colour than character (which, to be honest, is incredibly irresponsible of him as a father).
So what are you expected to do with all this information? It’s your decision, really. I’m not going to change the minds of people who’ve already bought the game knowing about any of this prior to their purchase. But I can honestly say these facts have pushed me, a lifelong Spider-Man fan, far away from ever buying Insomniac’s game. This wasn’t an easy decision for me – my heart aches whenever I see gameplay footage – but my principles have forced me to put politics ahead of my desire to consume modern Spider-Man products.
If none of what I mentioned was in the game, I would’ve blitzed through the entire thing by the end of the week. But alas, I’m left with playing my options of either Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, Friend or Foe, Shattered Dimensions or both The Amazing Spider-Man games. Or I can re-watch Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films again, or finish The Spectacular Spider-Man like I promised I would years ago.
At least I’ll feel welcomed in those spaces.
(Main image courtesy of Dean Jones)