Pretty much anyone who has read a Spider-Man comic in the past decade — or tuned in for Spider-Man: In the Spiderverse, for that matter — knows that Miles Morales is a very different, fundamental take on the Spidey mythos when compared to the tried and true Peter Parker. But how do you make those differences stand out in a video game?
Evan Narcissee, the Brooklyn-born Haitian-American writer behind Rise of the Black Panther, was one of the creatives tasked with figuring that out in the new, hit PS5/PS4 game Spider-Man: Miles Morales. With the game now burning up the charts, Narcissee chatted with The New York Times about what it was like in the writer’s room crafting this playable version of Miles and his story, and what he leaned into to make it work.
Miles’ place as a young, black hero in New York obviously sets him apart from Peter Parker from a cultural perspective — but Narcissee says he also took some inspiration from the familial parts of Miles’ story that differ from Peter Parker, which opened up avenues for the types of stories you could never really tell with the OG Spider-Man (like, could you imagine Peter rocking that Bodega Cat Suit? no way).
“As a reader and critic, somebody who has written about Miles as a character before, what did I see as areas to explore? And the big thing for me was this can’t be a re-skin. This can’t be a palette swap of the Peter Parker game. Miles is different as a character. What kind of stories you can tell through those differences,” he explained. “Obviously, his cultural background, his race, is one of them. But even aside from that, with Peter Parker you tell stories about a very individual kind of guilt and responsibility. With Miles, he’s got a mom and his dad, and an uncle. He has a family. So you can tell stories about family through Miles in a way that you can’t about Peter. Peter pretty much only has Aunt May.”
Narcissee says he was also struck by the aesthetic options in working on a character like Miles, getting to show a more casual, modern style that kids can connect with — seeing themselves reflected back in the hero they’re playing, because the character himself can finally be a more true reflection.
“The idea of a character wearing Air Jordans or Adidas and basketball shorts, and dressed up like a kid from around the way, would have been laughed at 20 years ago,” he said. “But now it’s like, ‘Oh wait, there’s a whole new language of style and expression that you can access through this character.’ And I feel like his accelerated popularity almost invites that. It invites this idea that people can make the character their own, and they really have.”
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is out now on PS5 (if you can find one) and PS4.