Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales: An homage to Hispanic Heritage and representation

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Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales: An homage to Hispanic Heritage and representation

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! From the music to pasteles, here’s how Insomniac Games honors Miles’ heritage.

Hey everyone, Hispanic Heritage Month is officially underway and here at Insomniac Games, we’re proud of the work that went into the cultural representation of the Morales family and East (sometimes referred to as Spanish) Harlem in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. As someone who comes from a Hispanic background, I felt a powerful connection to Miles’ story so I’m delighted to share the details that went into establishing the game’s representation and giving people like myself meaningful recognition in Marvel’s New York. I’ve had the honor to speak with the writers, artists, animators, and audio designers at Insomniac who collaborated with dialect coaches, consultancy groups, actors from across Latin America, and our own studio talent to ensure the Hispanic representation felt genuine and specific. The team also traveled to East Harlem to study the neighborhood and learn about the people who continually make it a vibrant place to live.

So, let’s talk about how the environments were influenced starting with Miles’ apartment. Originally his grandmother’s, the apartment is an homage to Puerto Rican culture and celebrates Miles’ roots. Paintings that depict Puerto Rican dancers and pueblos are hung on the walls alongside flags, straw hats, and family portraits. Meanwhile, Puerto Rican staples like coquí frog statues, inspired by the country’s national animal, are found on shelves and as refrigerator magnets. The set also includes wooden Santos figurines that allude to Abuela’s religious upbringing. During the sequence La Nochebuena, Rio can be found frying up tostones in the kitchen while pasteles boil in a stock pot. Keen eyes can find other mouthwatering dishes such as flan and fresh empanadas on plates alongside a bowl of arroz con gandules. When we spoke to Puerto Rican consultants, they reminisced about their childhood and Christmas gatherings, offering detailed descriptions of visiting their grandparents’ homes. Specifically, we wanted Puerto Rican players to feel a sense of home and comfort, so we included the little details that would take them back to those moments growing up.

Music also plays a crucial role in connecting Miles to his heritage. In La Nochebuena, players are given a choice of music to pick for the party, each embodying key figures in Miles’ life: a jazz tune from his father; an R&B track from Uncle Aaron; and from Abuela, a salsa tune some may recognize as Esta Navidad (“This Christmas”) by Puerto Rican salsa musicians Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe. At Rio Morales’ campaign rally, you can also hear La Gozadera, a reggaeton dance tune from Cuban music duo Gente de Zona. The selection was inspired by songs you’d hear at Latin-American events: the Willie Colón classic can be heard at family gatherings during the holiday season, meanwhile Gente de Zona hypes up parties and invites Latin Americans to celebrate their diversity through song and dance.

Out on the streets of East Harlem, you’ll notice other cultural Hispanic touchstones: beautiful murals depicting the lives of people in the community – friends, family, camaraderie, elders playing games, and children playing sports; ambient sounds of salsa music that attracts neighbors to dance in the streets; and the balconies and alleyways are canopied with Puerto Rican flags. An aspect of Harlem that also caught the team’s eyes were the family-owned businesses that line each block. These are shops run by the neighborhood’s people, the heart of Spanish Harlem, who inspired us to get the details right. We needed to bring life and authenticity to these locations to help players feel connected to this part of the city. It was important the neighborhood felt like it was more than a mere backdrop, to instead give players a home they’ll fight to protect.

For Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the team wanted a diverse and memorable cast that accurately reflected the neighborhood and stood out from the rest of the city. People are at the heart of our game’s story and world, so we put representation at the forefront through their personalities and physical appearances. This was achieved by scanning in actors who more closely characterized the real people of Harlem, capturing their different skin tones, ages of the community members, and their unique fashion senses. Our writing team also researched backgrounds for each of these characters to tangibly connect them to Harlem. Teo Álvarez and Camila Vázquez, owners of Teo’s Bodega and Pana Fuerte, are examples of our teams collaborating to create characters, landmarks, and stories that enrich the neighborhood with a layer of personality, diversity, and connectedness.

 

It was also important for the writers to represent the nuances of language and relationships through dialogue. During recording sessions, our script writers and actors gained insight on the mixing of Puerto Rican Spanish and New York English with the help of a dialect coach. As a result, the actors who played Miles Morales and Rio Morales captured the subtleties of Spanglish, mirroring conversations we had with our parents growing up – or maybe still do! Parents are often a source of love and worry, and we wanted players to feel that through spoken nuances. During the Rhino chase sequence for instance, when Miles lies to his mom about the coconut milk, the conversation is mostly in English. But Rio catches him in the lie: “Mira, mijo, no seas mentiroso!” (“Don’t be a liar!”) It was almost like I was being scolded by my own mom!

The team wanted to put players in the shoes of Miles Morales, not just as Spider-Man, but as a teenager finding himself in East Harlem. It was important that Miles and the community were represented wholeheartedly, from something as obvious as genuine dialogue and even small details like fridge magnets. As a second-generation Hispanic-American, the game’s focus on representation provided me a moment of recognition that allowed me to establish a deeper connection with Miles and make me feel like a plausible hero in this world. The care that went into the game’s details is incredible and I’m happy to have shared some of those examples with you today.

To get a behind-the-scenes look at the creators behind Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, I encourage you to check out the Creator-to-Creator series in the video below.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales: An homage to Hispanic Heritage and representation

Still haven’t web-slinged through Marvel’s New York as Miles Morales? Learn more here!

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40 Comments

  • Yawn on these nuts, im glad they did all this, it meant so much to me to finally see some puerto rican representation in my media that wasnt offensive jokes

    • found the pink hair who fell for woke culture.

    • Ahhhh haHaHa

      You say tickle deez all super hardcore then you flake down hard and say, Oh – you mean the world to me.

      Thought that was hilarious how quick you switched modes.

  • Nice! Viva la raza.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this behind the scenes look! Adding this authentic attention to detail enriches the game and its characters so much! Diverse representation is always nice, but it’s so much better when genuine thought and authenticity is put into a character and gaming experience!

    I’m looking forward to more of these kinds of stories and posts, even outside of Hispanic heritage month! <3

  • Virtue Flexing again Sony?

    Look I love this game. I love the little bits the culture I grew up with, not being a hispanic person, this was the world I grew up in.

    These special needs months and celebration days, really need to start being ignored. They are divisive just like this post. Keep making games like Miles Morales, but stop making it about this whole great good BS. Couldn’t have hurt you to focus purely on the development and the research instead about “representation”. This is America, at least where this blog post is supposed to be focused. We’re supposed to be this big metaphorical melting pot, but you’re more interested in how it spot lights something and puts an undue focus on something doesn’t need it. In the process you unironically use diversity, and connectedness in the same sentence. Like the division is what makes us connected. Not to mention in the same game you put material from offensive aggressive violent extremist groups in your game without any context or awareness to the kind of choas they have created or some of the trauma they’ve created for the citizens of this country. That isn’t even getting into the Chop. In 2001, Konami removed the twin towers from MGS2 for culturally sensitive reasons. In 2021, 20 years later, sony has shown how incentive they could be to matters of our society and how tone deaf and incentive they are compared to back then.

    You’ve lost your way.

    As I said I’m not advocating for less. However I think its time to stop using the vernacular and supporting the organizations and ideas of groups that seek to tear us apart. If you’re eye rolling by time you’re done reading this, then consider yourself part of the problem.

    • insensitive* stupid auto correct.

    • Didn’t expect this from Kaze.

      Very well said.

    • I still have not purchased this game, and I have had a ps5 since January. I won’t buy it now. Not just because of the stupid things they say, but their greed is a problem. They could protest to Sony about it, but they don’t. These quick one-and-done games are too expensive. Look at New World, for example. They charged $40 and will provide constant updates to the game. Yes, it’s a completely different type of game than anything PS has put out. But, it doesn’t mean PS couldn’t do something similar. I’m tired of Single-Player Story games; would like mass replayability. They’re all kind of similar too. I have great ambitious ideas for a couple of supremely replayable unique games, that I conjured on my own – so, I know ideas can’t be dry if I can easily come up with them. I don’t think any of PS’s studios can save those of us who feel the same way – they’re too boxed in.

    • they also keep calling him the first black “spider-man”. That went to Hobi decades ago. Miles was a woke knee-jerk reaction that most people still don’t care for.

    • Where is the darn “LIKE” button!!! Well said @kazeEternal.
      The same thing can also be said about other “communities” of late that say they are supporting and stand for unity but are actually causing division, the very thing the the groups are fighting for.
      I’ll leave it at that. I just wanted to say good job on your comment, thanks.

    • Let’s unpack what this KazeEternal user wrote:

      “These special needs months and celebration days, really need to start being ignored.”

      “…spot lights something and puts an undue focus on something doesn’t need it.”

      “Not to mention in the same game you put material from offensive aggressive violent extremist groups in your game without any context or awareness to the kind of choas [sic] they have created or some of the trauma they’ve created for the citizens of this country.”

      This last statements makes clear what KazeEternal dances around saying. S/he seems offended by the focus on Black and Hispanic America. The only real life organization represented in the fictitious world of Miles Morales (other than NYPD) would be from the in-game mural celebrating Black Lives Matters. Certainly BLM is NOT an “offensive aggressive violent extremist” group. Just the other day there was a report on how a white supremacist admitted that he disguised himself as “antifa” during the George Floyd protests and fired shoots near a police station to seed animosity against peaceful protests. A recent Harvard study found that BLM protests were overwhelming peaceful.

      Spider-Man Miles Morales is a great game. I’m proud at how Insomnaics gently wove a few allusions to modern real life happenings. Spider-Man was criticized from being somewhat tone-deaf, but Miles Morales managed to avoid that.

      Yes, I am “eye rolling” this comment from someone who sadly seems to believe that those of us celebrating and supporting diversity and equality for ALL Americans are part of the problem. The fact that he anticipated that highlights where s/he stands.

    • Coming from the best critical thinker in the world (me), your brain has issues, Tatan.

    • Tatanka2007

      blm is is literally a terrorist group out to cause diversity and get money. two of the “movement” creators let it out of the bag.

      even though it was well known they had caused more damage and destruction then anything.

    • Let me tell you i’m puerto rican and i agree with you

    • Tat – Post more crap like this; see what happens.

      “from someone who sadly seems to believe that those of us celebrating and supporting diversity and equality for ALL Americans are part of the problem.”
      Why do you want to celebrate and support diversity? Yes, that is a problem.

      Get a reply back to me as soon as you can.

    • Tata – My Bad, brain overload. Was thinking divide. Disregard everything in my last post, except the first sentence.
      This is what happens when I think too much, my brain just craps out. But, it’s been defribilated now.
      Anyway, I’ve always supported diversity, and my comment (except for the first sentence) was a mistake and I’m sorry for making the error.

  • I love that they let me really FEEL the exaggerated swagger of a black teen

  • I just got platinum trophy for Marvel’s Spider-Man remastered PS5 & now I’m working on platinum for miles morales in new game+! I can honestly say that these are two of the BEST super hero games I’ve ever played! I respect the diversity that miles morales brings to the universe & I’m actually happy to see Peter Parker and miles morales come together even though they’re from different backgrounds. I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood & growing up all my closest friends we’re Hispanic. Watching Peter interact with miles brought back fond memories of my closest friends. The dynamic was very much the same in that peter is older than miles and he shows miles the ropes as time goes on, it’s very similar to myself & one of my buddies growing up. I appreciate the diversity as I myself am Italian but I have family who is Hispanic, African American & native American. Anyone hating on the game because it features characters of different backgrounds is truly hurting themselves. This game is absolutely stunning & I can’t wait until Spider-Man 2 is released! I hope insomniac games implements some kind of co-op experience with the 2 Spider-Man characters! Happy gaming 🙂✌️

  • Why the new ps5 update file (4.02) can not be downloaded?

  • Ooooh! How delightful! A race-baiting article.

  • It was great to see such authentic representation of the culture I grew up with, in the entertainment media I love. Thank you for helping me go back in time.

  • …dlc on the way?

  • Why is there a heritage moth for Hispanics. I’m Mexican and this is just dumb.

  • As an Black American I feel like I didn’t get any of this in this game and the fact that this article completely ignores one half of the characters ethnicity makes me feel like the problem came from the top.

  • Jesus Sony stop with signaling already. This type of crap isn’t good for the game it’s bad, plus Miles wasn’t the first black Spider-Man that was Hobart Brown, damn get your facts right…pffffffft* what type of “people” do you have working for you?…not very…how to say this “WitH oUt HuRtIng feEwLinGs” informative. Next you’re gonna tell us the world is flat…🤦‍♂️

  • Love how well this game captured the PR culture, someone did their homework and quite well… this game is gorgeous and very well made, amazing job!

  • I don’t have a problem with some representation in things but when some movies and games constantly throw something in your face it makes them less fun to watch and play I liked both the game and the movie I didn’t pay attention to these little details I noticed but I didn’t care I get everyone has there own culture it’s gonna be apart of who they are But there have been things ruined because of to much in your face ideals of what We should be

  • Way to go! I love that this is happening!

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