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Growing Up With Marvel’s Spider-man

I drove to the store on September 7th to pick up the big red box. It was a brand-new Limited Edition Marvel’s Spider-Man PS4 Pro Bundle. The package was heavy as I carefully carried it back to the house, like a gnome who just found buried treasure. My wife rolled resigned eyes, I already had a PS4.

I sat on the floor with a grin on my face while I unboxed the marvel (pun intended). There it was, a perfectly crafted, glossy machine with the recognizable logo. I held the controller and pressed its triggers. They were so comfortable, my goodness.

Right then, a surprising and certain thought hit me, “I will give this to my brother.” I briefly resisted the idea, but it was too late.

I quickly put everything back in the box, almost feeling guilty for peering into something no longer mine, and texted him right away: I pre-ordered the new Spider-Man PS4, it would be my gift to him. There was unbelief on the other end, and a single emoji tear. I felt it too.

I learned to love people as they are, not to change them into my own image.

It’s 1984. We are sitting in our living room, I am 7 years old. My brother is a few years older. He knows a lot about video games and actually convinced Mom we needed an Atari 2600. He somehow found a used one we could afford.

Our parents divorced a few months ago, we took a bus and traveled 24 hours to arrive at this small religious community in Northern Mexico. A family of 6 full of memories by the beach, suddenly became a family of 3 about to face one of the worst winters in the area’s history. Gaming would become a fresh window into adventure, and better times.

Days later, my brother brings home a game, the box art shows Spider-Man falling to his doom from a Green Goblin fireball. I get excited as my brother pulls the cartridge out. We play for days on end, and beat the Green Goblin together many times.

Spider-man for the Atari 2600

The Atari joystick is in bad shape, then it stops working altogether. My brother finds a guy who can fix it by performing something akin to cable surgery. Soon the joystick cable is full of duct tape rings, but somehow still works, my brother finds ways of fixing it himself.
“Somehow” is a word I will always associate with my brother, he has an innate ability to make unlikely things happen.

It’s 2000. I am 23. I have a lot of things going on in my life, I have not made the best choices. Addictions make me numb, and I spend my nights writing dark thoughts. People say I am a good guy, but inside I feel out of place, broken. At one point in my teenage years I decided religion was not for me. I was taught you had to live a perfect life. God was always watching, writing down every mistake. I made many, so I decided to live free of constraints, as an existentialist.

Spider-man for the original PlayStation

My brother and I don’t get along very well. He doesn’t like me retreating into my room, into myself. We have a lot of friends who come to visit, but we are also alone with each other. I wish I could reach out to him and ask for help, but my heart is hard.

My brother has a PlayStation and just bought the new Spider-Man game, he nods for me to come over. I sit halfheartedly, but something within me warms up. I actually enjoy playing the game, swapping the controller back and forth as we progress. We play for the whole weekend and finish the game. It would not be our last, we would finish dozens of games together: Resident Evil, Final Fantasy IX, Soul Reaver, Silent Hill and many others.

Flash forward to today, I confess I cheated on September 7th. I put everything back in the box, except for the game disc, which I slid into my black old PS4.

Insomniac GamesMarvel’s Spider-Man.

Perhaps I was biased, but I started falling in love the moment the Marvel animation appeared and that epic music hit my eardrums. The actual game blew my mind, expanded my expectations of open world RPGs, and caused me to call my wife over quite frequently, giggling like a child, just to “check this out”. The presentation is cinematic, the story familiar but surprisingly fresh.

Our hero is now mature. He is concerned with greater things. He is in full control of his powers, and knows his place in the ecosystem. Also, he high-fives people on the street. Ah, the streets of New York, they are beautiful and unintimidating, they feel like home. And you’re freaking Spider-Man, you inhabit his skin like never before. To reveal more is to spoil the adventure. Try it, you’ll probably love it. End of review.

Maturity is a loaded word. I always thought I would wake up one day and say “wow, I’ve matured” and my problems would go away. Not so. Maturity is attained through facing a series of challenges, and it takes time. Video games have also matured. We could compare Spider-Man on the PS4 to the Atari 2600 version and think they have little in common, but that is not true. There would be no PS4 without a PS1, and there would be no home consoles without the Atari 2600. In fact, Insomniac perfected Marvel’s Spider-Man’s engine over several years and apparently unrelated games. Today’s games rest on the shoulders of previous efforts.

My relationship with my brother has matured too. We fought from childhood all the way into our late twenties, and we sometimes saw the worst of each other. Over time I learned to avoid confrontation, but that did not help. It took a divine intervention to change my heart. I learned to love people as they are, not to change them into my own image. Only then I saw my brother for who he was, only then I remembered how he saved my life once, taught me to love video games, respected my opinion, and never quit loving his little brother. Only then I realized how much of a geek he was and still is.

In a few weeks I will travel over 2000 miles to deliver the red console. I will sit in my brother’s living room next to him and we will take turns playing Spider-Man, becoming the hero until our turn is done. We will look at each other and nod with that unspoken nostalgia of having shared so many games and known each other for so long, as long as I can remember.

Rafa Ble is an unapologetic nerd who knows the joy of animating dots and creating random circles in BASIC.

He lives and plays in California. When he is not adulting, you may find him building cool technical solutions, riding his bike or, very recently, learning to sail. Connect with him on PS4 or Xbox: TheBleGuy.

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