Spider-Man PS4 LGBTQ+ representation created a ‘better version of our world,’ according to dev

When Insomniac Games’ art team thought of a fitting way to make introduce Spider-Man PS4 LGBTQ+ representation, lead environmental artist Jason Hickey asked Insomniac’s CEO and creative director for permission. Luckily, he didn’t really need to.

“It’s kind of sad that I felt like I had to ask, when I didn’t really need to ask in the end,” Hickey said at Devcom 2019, according to GamesIndustry.biz. “I was able to do something I wanted to do, and they supported me on that.”

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The team added a huge mural of a rainbow Pride flag to the in-game version of New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, which houses a significant LGBTQ+ population. When Spider-Man released on Sony’s PlayStation 4, Hickey said, “everybody went mad for it.” He’s right: The addition of LGBTQ flags into the game created a Twitter Moment on September 9, 2018, when Spider-Man comic author Saladin Ahmed tweeted about an in-game Pride flag. As of writing, the tweet has earned almost 45,000 likes and almost 10,000 retweets.

At Devcom, Hickey referenced Ahmed’s tweet, adding that it was “really moving” for him to think that such an obvious inclusion could have an impact on children’s lives. The Spider-Man PS4 LGBTQ+ representation wasn’t the only small addition Hickey and his team made to the game’s version of New York in order to make it more welcoming. Insomniac decided to remove a statue from the in-game Central Park of Dr. J. Marion Sims, a figure regarded as the “father of gynecology” despite the fact that he performed experimental surgeries on enslaved women. As GamesIndustry.biz points out, the real-life statue of Sims was removed in April 2018, before Spider-Man PS4 was released, but Hickey said the decision to remove it in-game was made before its real-life removal. The team also added a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, a British women’s rights figure, into Spider-Man’s Central Park, offsetting the fact that the real Central Park contained no statues of women during the game’s development.

Hickey said he prepared his Devcom talk by thinking about the things he (and presumably others on his art team) added to the game that, “if I wasn’t there, [it] wouldn’t have gone in the game,” or could have been implemented in a different way. According to GamesIndustry.biz, Spider-Man PS4 also includes tributes to civil rights leaders like Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass. All of these changes and additions made Spider-Man PS4’s New York what Hickey called “a better version of our world” — transporting those 12-year-old kids to somewhere perhaps more accepting than their own world.