Five years ago, the terminally online took issue with what they perceived as an overtly ‘pro-police’ sentiment inherent in Insomniac Games and Sony’s Marvel’s Spider-Man.
From Deadspin, to Game Revolution, to Dot eSports, various media activists in 2018 were besides themselves with outrage over the fact that, during a time of rising division over the concept of American law enforcement, the game dared to show the titular web-slinger forming a positive working relationship with the New York City Police Department.
“Police are an unimpeachable group in Spider-Man,” opined Kotaku’s Heather Alexandra. “They show no real flaws and make no mistakes. They don’t feel like an integrated part of the community; they pepper cutscenes and sometimes walk the streets but mostly show up as an allied faction in procedurally generated crime events. Even if Spider-Man’s New York is largely a fiction, it points towards a real place. New York is many things, but it is also the city of Eric Garner, stop-and-frisk, and Palantir. Rikers isn’t some fake pastiche location like Arkham Asylum. Real life police are a complicated presence in New York, but in Spider-Man they’re part of Spider-Man’s vigilante quest for justice, rather than members of the communities they’re supposed to protect.”
Further, many also took issue with the game’s central ‘discovery’ mechanic, wherein players would repair NYPD communications surveillance tower in order to expand their in-game world map, as they felt it too flippantly ignored the civil liberties issues such technology presented when employed in the real world.
“To reveal portions of the game’s map, players must bound across Manhattan and repair the dozens of surveillance towers that Oscorp Industries — a devious conglomerate — has installed to serve the NYPD,” explained The Ringer’s Justin Charity. “In fact, the towers resemble surveillance equipment that the NYPD now uses, in real life, to sort suspects and other people of interest by physical tags, including skin color, based on closed-circuit footage. Spider-Man does occasionally hint at the potential for civil rights abuses — it’s Oscorp technology, after all — but the game has rendered ubiquitous surveillance stations and drones as an otherwise benign, irresistible fact of modern life in a big, crime-ridden city.”
And despite the fact that many of these complaints seemed to be based on the fact that its players were unable to separate fiction from reality, and thus saw the game’s disinclination to tackle an admittedly complicated and sensitive political topic in favor of delivering a a piece of escapist entertainment as an endorsement of every negative action performed by law enforcement in recent years, this claim that Marvel’s Spider-Man was ‘copaganda’ became an accepted narrative among critics.
So much so that Eurogamer‘s Victoria Kennedy felt the need to raise the topic to Insomniac Games during a recent discussion with the developer regarding the wall-crawler’s upcoming sequel.
Reflecting to Kennedy on the ‘pro-police’ accusations following the reveal of the sequel ‘s latest trailer at Sony’s May 24th PlayStation showcase, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 creative director Bryan Intihar asserted, “You know, obviously that wasn’t our intent.”
“I think, just going forward, we think about things,” he added.
In terms of the surveillance tower criticisms, Inithar revealed that Insomniac Games had changed the ‘map discovery’ mechanic, noting its obnjective points are “not towers in this next game.”
A PlayStation 5 exclusive – for however long that may last – the Sony’s symbiote-soaked Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is set to released in Fall 2023.