Black People Are Always The Side Story

Yesterday's Playstation 5 presentation opened with Spider-Man Miles Morales. Though the teaser was brief, I couldn't hide my glee. I've wanted to play as Miles Morales—the black Spider-Man that is beloved by the fandom—since I first saw that the character would make an appearance in Insomniac's Spider-Man game. Turns out, this game is just a side story. I should have known.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ep4z5w/black-people-are-always-the-side-story
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I’m hoping against hope that this will be a primer to a full Miles Morales focused Spider-Man 2, but yea I felt a similar disappointment when I saw this wasn’t anything more than Sony trying to fill out a launch lineup.

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After the first game was released I read a long piece speculating about the next two games while basing their speculation around some Spiderman storylines. My memory of it is vague so I could be wrong, but I think I remember them making a decent case that Peter will die or be out of the picture at the end of the next one leaving Miles to be the protagonist of a third entry.

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Peter being overcome by the symbiote only for Miles to take him down would be the coolest fucking thing and needs to happen.

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I don’t necessarily want them to kill off Peter, because I feel like that story has been done plenty, but I was excited by the idea of Miles becoming the main protagonist with Peter in a mentor role.

At the very least I hope this is used to build up Miles as a major character in the next proper sequel. I don’t want to see him get side-lined again just because “we already did the thing with Miles”.

Not to dismiss the very valid criticisms in this article, I just found out about this and HOLY SHIT:

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I’m hoping it is at least more of an Assassin’s Creed: Liberation than a Freedom Cry, in terms of how full a game it is, but it really would be nice for it, you know, be a full game.

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This is kind of a massive disappointment when you consider how Miles has been treated by Marvel in their MCU and in the comics. Hopefully it leads to a full game, but as it stands the relegation of his character to a side game is a genuine disappointment. It’s like these folks have learned nothing from how well-received Spiderverse was.

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Seems like they’re trying to walk this back, but I’m not sure how convincing this is. It’s “a standalone game” but they compare it to Uncharted: Lost Legacy (so…basically still a side story).

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The confusion around this game has been in the back of my mind a little and I’ve been thinking: does it kind of suck basically losing the “Expansion” vernacular in games? Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Lost Legacy are very similar to something like Half Life Opposing Force or Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith in that they’re stand alone story campaigns that add some new features or weapons or powers, and are cheaper and shorter than the original games. The only games I can think of that still use this are some more traditional sub-based MMOs like WoW or FF14, and the Splatoon 2 DLC campaign.

Of course, these are standalone and traditionally Expansion Packs aren’t, but couldn’t the confusion have been avoided if they just said “Miles Morales is a stand-alone expansion based on Spider-Man (2018) and we’re excited… etc. etc.” instead of using the term “standalone game” which also comes with its own connotations in terms of length and depth?

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Given the time frame I’d say that this looks more like them hoping to cash in on the reception of Spiderverse in the short-term.

To me an “expansion” can’t be a stand-alone experience. It is a direct add-on to the previous game and would generally require having played the original game first. Fundamentally the same as DLC, but grander. FFXIV’s expansions can’t be played without having an existing character and simply exist to expand the experience as a whole.

Lost Legacy however is a complete experience that could be played without having ever touched a previous Uncharted game and doesn’t share any content with other Uncharted games. It may be smaller scale than a full-fledged Uncharted, but I would still consider it a complete game.

This is only the case for MMOs, though. In other genres it’s generally a stand alone experience or campaign built on the back of a base game, which can be played in any order. Theres tonnes of examples through the late 90s - 2000s. The Baldur’s Gate II expansion, Shadows of Amn can be played without ever having played Baldur’s Gate II, the same goes for both original Half Life expansions, or the Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 expansion campaigns. I’ve never played 1’s but 2’s are explicitly designed to be played standalone. Most recently Octo Expansion for Splatoon 2 adds a totally separate Single Player campaign that can be played at any time, before or concurrently with the games original campaign. All of these are mechanically similar to their main games, but with some slight changes and additions, and are generally shorter.

It was only this generation of consoles that really made it so they could be totally removed from the original game itself, but the function of Lost Legacy and Miles Morales is similar in my mind and I think it does people kind of a disservice to sell them as “standalone games” when that means something very specific to a lot of people now regarding length and value specifically. You also end up in situations where we thought Miles was going to be the main character of his own, full fledged game, finally, but no, it’s just in the side story. Expansion is a word that might work to differentiate the two and stop the confusion, because Gita’s right, it sucks to see yourself in something billed as the Real Thing only to have it turn out to be the Side Story building to the continuation of the Real Important stuff.

PS. Im so excited that Evan Narcisse is working on this. Hope they keep him on for future games because every comic book superhero game should have Evan writing for it.

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Maybe we just need a new term, because I feel like “expansion” is underselling it and makes it seem less than what it is, in the same way that calling it a full stand-alone game would be overselling it.

Although I also think people might be a little too quick to write this off as an inferior experience just because of the circumstances. Yeah, it’s a shame Miles isn’t getting the same full game respect that Peter got, but considering many people complained that the original game was too long with too much filler, a more concise game that focuses on its strengths has the potential to actually be a better experience than the original in some ways. Will it? Who knows. But I’m willing to wait to see what they do with it, especially if they care enough to get someone like Evan on board.

You’re 100% right, but my feeling is that they don’t think Miles is as “marketable” as Peter is, leading him to getting a side story game rather than his own. The success of Spiderverse flatly shows that he’ is a character that can garner absolutely massive amounts of attention, but this move shows that Marvel sees him as a side character in spite of evidence to the contrary.

You say that, and it’s true from a story standpoint, but in terms of the set pieces it fully lifts some more memorable ones from previous games. That’s not to knock Lost Legacy, as aside from the problems inherent in having POC lead characters voiced by white actors, I would argue it’s the best of the lot.

And some of its shooty sequences still manage to overstay their welcome a bit IMO. So I’m not sure this obsessing over size of an expansion/standalone is necessarily that meaningful. I think I’d rather have a tight, distilled experience of say 12 hours over a 20 hour experience that hits the same number of plot points and set pieces.

I think we’re getting a bit into the semantic weeds here. Regardless of whether you literally need to have Spider-Man PS4 installed in order to play Spider-Man: Miles Morales, it’s undeniable that they chose to call it that instead of Spider-Man 2. Maybe the next Spider-Man game starring Peter Parker after this one will also not be called Spider-Man 2. Who knows. But it’s clear that this game is not being treated internally (budget-wise, length, studio focus) or externally (marketing, press coverage) the same as a “main” game. It fits right into the lineage of “side-story” games like Freedom Cry and Lost Legacy, both of which are available standalone, but no one mistakes as “main” games in their respective series, despite and regardless of their length.

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A big signifier of this game’s significance and perceived status is going to be if they charge full price for it.

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Would Bayek and Aya not be considered black? Freedom Cry is a good comparison to Spider-Man: Miles Morales, but AC, at least as far as video games go, has a somewhat diverse main cast. Altair, Connor, Aveline, Bayek, Adewale, Shao Jun, Arbaaz Mir. But yeah there’s something to be said about how many of these are unnumbered “side” games.

And Aveline! Liberation had its problems, but I really liked her.