Spider-Man is in cahoots with the NYPD, and not everyone’s happy
The memeing of life: A new PS4 game catches ‘Spider-Cop’ in a web of his own making
Spider-Man works in lockstep with the NYPD throughout the game
Last week Spider-Man for the PS4 became the latest gaming meme, and 2018’s most viral game by far. It received mostly positive reviews for its storytelling nous, open-world layout and the care and attention put in to its mechanics. Special praise was reserved for the insanely enjoyable swinging function that’s now been immortalised all over the, um, web.
Makers Insomniac Games were careful to incorporate the online sphere into the game’s action, making it effortless to share video and photos directly from play mode. All week, daytripping gamers took to posing for selfies beside the Avengers Tower, the old Ghostbusters HQ and even other, smaller landmarks.
“Wow,” said comics writer Saladin Ahmed, posting an image of Spidey perched beside a Pride flag hung from an apartment building. “Thinking about all the 12-year-old kids who will be playing this game and seeing this in towns where it’s not safe to put that flag up.”
But, faster than you can say “fwip” while ejecting a long strand of adhesive material from your wrist, disquiet was raised about the game for one of its other, less expected traits – the fact Spider-Man works in lockstep with the NYPD throughout the game.
His relations with New York’s police are so close, in fact, that he jokingly speaks in third-person patter as “Spider-Cop” throughout. Although clearly light-hearted, this persona, taken in conjunction with the fact that Spidey spends much of the game literally setting up surveillance towers for the authorities, struck a sour note for certain audiences.
“They Turned Spider-Man into a Damn Cop and it Sucks,” blared Concourse, in one particularly stinging headline. The Ringer opted for slightly less loaded language, bemoaning the game’s “strange optimism about modern policing”. Firstly, the issue for both, and the hundreds of other sceptical players, is not with all police and their every function, but more specific to the NYPD and its current problems with brutality and racial profiling. Secondly, unlike his Gotham counterpart, Spider-Man isn’t typically written as a major police co-operator, so it seemed like an odd – and oddly tone-deaf – thing to innovate for the game.
Taken from another angle, lambasting the NYPD based on how poorly they treat suspects is most certainly a worthy cause, but a slightly odd manoeuvre for fans of a protagonist whose primary occupation is swinging around the city beating thieves unconscious.
For the time being, the NYPD issue doesn’t seem likely to derail the game’s success, and Insomniac was smart enough to build a big enough sandbox for players to inhabit that they can avoid the police altogether. Like their parkour-loving arachnid avenger himself, they’ve learned to throw as much stuff at the wall as possible and see what sticks.