The city that never sleeps is as dangerous as it once was, but neighborhood-friendly Spider-Man Harlem has done it all, from saving helpless bodega cats to defusing nuclear ticking bombs. And like any modern celebrity, Spider-Man always makes time to reply to his Twitter followers or snap goofy selfies with adoring fans. Yes, the new web-slinger is just as reliable and trustworthy as they come, but I know his biggest secrets. Miles Morales, the masked young man, enjoys playing video games, creating cool hip-hop beats and conducting elaborate science experiments. He ruffles his hair in the bathroom mirror and has a soft spot for dulce de coco. But, more importantly, he looks like me.
I grew up as a star-eyed Afro-Latino kid in Spanish Harlem. Day after day, a beautiful combination of salsa and rap burst from every apartment window. A lifelong friendship forged at the nearest basketball court. I remember the helado trolley on the street from my middle school and the summer parties where the fire hydrants were our do-it-yourself beach versions. Your barber is practically a family; Haircut from others is disrespectful! The best non-branded soft drinks cost less than a dollar, and sometimes local pizzerias will give kids a free slice of pepperoni with a slushie. At night, I fell asleep when a car bell rang in the distance; Héctor Lavoe’s smooth voice or Willie Colón’s crisp trumpet ring through the flimsy walls of my bedroom.
Coming back to Harlem as an adult is a strange thing: The community isn’t what it used to be. Family businesses have given way to luxury condominiums, expensive supermarkets and middle-class fast food chains. Police surveillance has increased, which means that cases of racism occur at a more frequent rate. What’s more, most apartment complexes can’t afford rent, and historically cheap foods, like deli sandwiches, are reminiscent of soaring Midtown prices. The process of rule is displacing the old inhabitants of Harlem. However, beneath the incessant honks and obnoxious loud truck horns, I could barely make out the reggaeton’s unremarkable bass. In the shadow of luxury hotels, street artists preserve Harlem’s history with elaborate murals. Enduring culture.
In Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, like in reality, my old neighborhood is in the midst of an identity crisis. The Roxxon Petroleum Corporation established its headquarters in Manhattan in the heart of Harlem; The company’s dark, foreboding tower is visible from the west and east. At the start of the game, Miles has just moved in from Brooklyn, and the sudden change of location is hard for him to accept. With the help of his best friend Ganke as well as his mother’s timely motivational speeches, Miles learns to appreciate his community by simply being present: Release Teo’s adorable cat take a swing; mingle with various Harle Mos at music festivals. When a substantial amount of community supplies were stolen, the homeless shelter closed because of gang activity, and Roxxon’s evil intentions came to light, I put on a mask with Miles. and become the hometown hero that I always dreamed of.
There’s a late-game moment that still lingers with me even now, a year after completing the central narrative. Hailey Cooper, a local street performer, pulled our hero aside and said, “There’s been a Spider-Man guarding New York since I was a kid, but to have someone who cares about me and my home me, that means everything.” Miles laughs the way he always does whenever he’s confused and replies, “That’s my home, too.” In the end – even if it’s just in some digital game world or etched onto the page of a widely read comic book – my community has received the protection it deserves. And if I just dodged or pressed a button enough times to save innocent people from danger, I could be that protector too. While swinging at high speed through Harlem’s bustling markets or battling a horde of thieves in cinematic fashion, I simply lived my superhero fantasies through Miles Morales. But in the quieter moments – when listening to the sounds of the city through old records of Uncle Aaron’s music or gazing at the BLM wall art through watery eyes – it’s me under the mask. there.
This article originally appeared in Chapter 333 by Game Informer.