In Insomniac’s 2018 Spider-Man game, Peter Parker’s relationship with New York City involved the occasional selfie with a citizen and a lot of palling around with the NYPD. The new Miles Morales game does something different. It foregrounds Miles Morales’ relationship to Harlem and the community he’s a part of there.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales consulting writer Evan Narcisse recently spoke about creating the special bond the titular character has to Harlem in a new interview with The New York Times. Narcisse, a comic book author and former reporter for this very site, pointed to one of the early scenes in Into the Spider-Verse as an example of the type of connection he wanted to foster.
“[T]here was one scene early on when Miles leaves his house and he’s walking to school, and he’s saying hello to the neighborhood,” Narcisse said. “And one thing that I hit upon and we worked on was that in the video game, the neighborhood can talk back to him. One of the things for me was early on in the game, one of the points I made was his skin should be showing through his costume. This is the scene when the Roxxon security operatives have their guns on him. So I wanted to charge that scene, obviously, with some metaphorical energy.”
He went on:
The reason I made the case for that is, they see his skin peeking through his costume and immediately the whole city’s going to know that this Spider-Man is different in a fundamental way than the other one. Once Harlem and other Black and brown communities in the city know that this new Spider-Man is one of theirs, they’re going to react differently to him.
Like the first game, Miles Morales lets you web-sling around a condensed but still sprawling simulacrum of Manhattan. It goes further though, layering small details, moments, and moods that make Harlem exude warmth and feel lived-in. It’s not just another section of the map littered with waypoints. It’s home.
“Figuring out what a neighborhood feels like and how to make it feel like that in the video game was a big part of what was important for me,” Narcisse said. “I lived in Harlem for five years, fell in love with Harlem. I was a kid who grew up in Brooklyn and then moved to Harlem, and they have different vibes.”
You can read the rest of the interview over on the Times website.