Thursday, January 10, 2019

GTMTM '18: Marvel's Spider-Man, The Friendly Neighborhood Videogame

Marvel's Spider-Man

If Overwatch is the world I want to live in, Spider-Man is the man I want to be in that world. Never has that been more true than after playing this game. I knew I was excited for Marvel's Spider-Man, but as launch drew closer, I realized Spider-Man means more to me than I'd ever admitted to anyone--including myself. Marvel's Spider-Man is a game that's meant to be as much about Peter Parker at it is about Spider-Man; similarly, my story of Marvel's Spider-Man is as much about life without a controller as it is about playing the game itself.

I'd been excited for Spider-Man since seeing the first trailer at E3 2016. I remember the exact moment I first saw it, sitting in my tiny basement apartment with way too many people in it watching Sony's E3 press conference together. Back then, the rumors that were flying all said that Sucker Punch was making the game, which made sense considering their pedigree with the InFamous series. So when the Insomniac logo popped up at the end of that first trailer, I was very confused, and almost disappointed. But then someone pointed out that they made Sunset Overdrive as well as Ratchet and Clank and it all made sense. I was immediately on board. It turns out, so was Insomniac.

I've never seen game developers more joyful about the game they're working on like Insomniac was about Spider-Man. Every interview was so fun to watch because no matter who was talking, they were breathless, talking as fast as they could about all the ideas they had for Spider-Man and everything they were putting into the game. They were constantly smiling, going deep into the reasons behind every little decision. That same joy came through in a million little ways in every new trailer leading up to launch.

As launch drew nearer, I started doing things I've never done for other games. I bought the official prequel book and read it faster than almost any other book I read all year. I bought an official t-shirt. I pre-ordered the Digital Deluxe edition and actually got excited when the dumb little pin showed up, putting it on display on my desk at work. As I kept making these decisions, it dawned on me that I was probably even more excited than I realized.

Even if I hadn't caught on, my wife sure had, and when launch day came she blew me away:

Spider-web quesadillas! My sons in Spider-Man shirts! A Spider-Man birthday banner strung across our living room wall! (My birthday was two days after the game came out, so it worked.) She had really gone all out. When I expressed how surprised and delighted I was, my wife said, "Well, it's easy, it's like a seven-year-old's birthday party."

And I felt like a seven-year-old at his birthday party. We'd never done anything like this for the launch of a game before. It was so much fun, and by the time we sat to play, hype was through the roof. If I had a second to think, I might've been worried that there was now a lot of pressure on this game to live up to all these expectations, but there wasn't any time to think. Yuri was leading a raid on Fisk tower, and it was finally time to take down the Kingpin.

The game and story were amazing, and I couldn't put my controller down. Literally: I had 100% completed the game and earned the platinum trophy exactly 8 days after launch.

I was even so excited about it that I tweeted at some of the writers, asking them questions about the game. One of them even responded.

But while I loved the main story--especially the examination of the relationship between Peter and MJ, the best videogame relationship since Nate and Elena in Uncharted 4--the real best times came after the platinum trophy.

Marvel's Spider-Man turns the Concrete Jungle into the Concrete Playground, and the most fun I had playing this game were the times I ignored everything else and just played around like a kid.

It helped that a lot of the time I was playing, I had actual kids shouting at me, telling me what to do.

Even my wife got in on the fun, rushing over to me with her phone a couple days after launch, showing me an article she stumbled upon about the proposal Easter egg in the game. This was all the more fun for us because it featured her name, spelled the same way she spells it.

(Unfortunately, this worked out better for us than it did for the couple that inspired its creation.)

This was the magic of Marvel's Spider-Man: it brought my family together because it was so easy for everyone to love. But honestly, that's just the magic of Spider-Man. Spider-Man is the man I want to be because I think he's who we all want to be. He puts on his suit and mask and goes out into the world trying his best to make it a better place, and despite endless setbacks he keeps trying, always with a quip at the ready to keep the mood light. But then the mask and suit come off and he has a job, bills, and relationships, all of which he tries to deal with nobly. He sincerely does his best to to keep everyone happy even while he struggles more inside than almost anyone realizes. If that doesn't describe you, I'm sorry, but you're probably too rich for your own good.

In a time when most other superheroes are being redefined to find new audiences--becoming darker or funnier or whatever--Spider-Man has just been leaning harder into the same of shtick he's always had, because he's never been more relatable. He's so relatable, in fact, that the newest Spider-Man storylines just involve more spider-people, and it just keeps getting better.

Spider-Man is fictional, but he does a lot of the same things in the real world that he tries to do in his world: he inspires us, he makes us laugh, and he helps us realize the kind of people we want to be. Insomniac understood that, and executed that aspect of Spider-Man perfectly. I couldn't get enough of this game and now that I've completed absolutely everything it has to offer, I can only say that I'll be forever grateful to everyone involved for putting this game together. That's why Marvel's Spider-Man mattered to me in 2018, and why it will be a bright spot in my memory forever.

(Thanks for reading! This is the fourth post in my "Games That Mattered to Me in 2018" series, posted one a day between January 7 and January 16, 2019. Go here to see the rest of the series.)

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