Spider-Man has had a killer 2018. After starring in Insomniac’s record-breaking video game and two critically acclaimed films, the webslinger has undoubtedly made 2018 the Year of the Spider. That success in different mediums was recently fused together in the recent Spider-Man PS4 update that added the iconic suit from the Sam Raimi movie trilogy. But Insomniac has oddly weathered plenty of hate regarding the subject, dampening some of the joy a treat like this should have. And while the studio didn’t quite “cave” to trolls, it’s yet another example of the sometimes toxic relationship that players have with developers.
The optics on this suit’s inclusion are not great when examined on a surface level because of the order of events. Players had been whining about the exclusion of the Raimi suit for months, blasting Insomniac for not putting that iconic Spidey suit over all the many other iconic Spidey suits already in the game. The game’s subreddit even banned all posts (which has since been deleted) on the topic a few days ago because of how “stale” it made forum. And after months of silence, Insomniac Games tweeted the photo revealing the Spider-Man PS4 Sam Raimi suit that would hopefully make its Twitter mentions anything but a nasty trash heap (although there was still plenty of that).
This order of complaining followed by a delivery initially gave the impression that Insomniac submitted to trolly threats, which showed that trolls that harassment works and the non-trolls that, well, harassment works. People leading some of the most hardcore pestering initiatives have claimed this as a victory while those on the opposite side have looked at this as a kind of defeat.
Spider-Man PS4 Raimi Suit – Give Me the Suit of the God Damn Spider-Man!
But Insomniac has claimed multiple times that that isn’t what happened and the suit had been in the works since the before the game’s launch. Add in standard bug testing, regular development, and the fact that the team was also creating multiple DLC episodes and something as “easy” as a suit could understandably take months. Others from the team and around the industry have chimed in too, stating that the amount of bureaucratic red tape barred Insomniac from saying anything despite being constantly belittled on the internet about not including the very thing it was working on.
This whole situation reeks of bad timing. Not on Insomniac’s part, but it was bad timing because of how the planned, natural development of the suit could be misconstrued as rushing the skin out after complaining had reached its peak. But the present situation is just how it happened, which left Insomniac in a weird place. If the team already had plans of releasing the suit, it shouldn’t feel the need to can the costume to avoid giving the impression that bullying does work. Spitefully dumping it would have wasted multiple hours spent creating it and robbed patient fans of a nice gift.
Avoiding these situations gets easier once we stop making repeated rude threats like this to developers and putting them in these situations. Had the desire not tipped over into gross territory, then it would have been a welcome surprise and no one would have suspected Insomniac of caving or that bullying works.
This is different from demanding that Bethesda bug test its games or that EA remove Star Wars Battlefront 2’s microtransactions because good testing and non-predatory systems are fundamental for video games to function. As AAA publishers push to see what they can get away with, it’s important to stand up for consumer rights and make sure games aren’t being turned into buggy, half-finished gambling machines. A cosmetic skin, no matter how cool, is not nearly that important and thus not worthy of a crusade.
Spider-Man PS4 Raimi Suit – Disrupting the Balance
Entitlement drove the fiendish lust for Raimi’s suit because people felt robbed that this one costume wasn’t in the game and it was Insomniac’s duty to add it. This mentality displays how toxic it is when fans grow rabid with demands. The balance between artistic vision and giving the fans what they want is tricky because an artist’s vision should matter, but the audience is who buys it. But these situations violently tip the scales into giving the fans what they want at the expense of the creators. They are the results of rude behavior and not a pleasant back and forth. And while it only looked like Insomniac paid the ransom, other developers actually pay it.
Mass Effect 3’s DLC ending is the biggest example of this whole idea. Its original finale was widely regarded as disappointing but droves of players rioted and petitioned that BioWare fix it. So the studio gave in and released an addendum that added a few shots and gave some more background on what went down before the credits. People couldn’t just accept it as a bit of a downer and move on. Instead, BioWare was pressured to spent all this time patching up an ending that needed a bit more than some additional dialogue and dramatic stills.
It made the developer look weak for going back and rewriting some of its canon just to please some message board users. The Canadian RPG studio compromised its vision and delayed the post-launch DLC in order to tip that aforementioned scale of fans wishes and developer intent in favor of the fans. BioWare coming to this conclusion by itself would be a different story but petitions and threats are not a natural way to get an extended cut of a game and give off the problematic narrative that harassment is an effective tactic. To some, the end justifies the means even if that means being a dick.
Spider-Man PS4 Raimi Suit – A Recurring Theme
While Mass Effect 3’s ending is the poster child for this kind of controversy, there are other examples of fans demanding that developers bend to every will of the customer in ways that go beyond consumer rights. Players bombard Ed Boon’s Twitter account commanding that specific fighters be added to NetherRealm’s next title or else they won’t buy it. People were up in arms over DICE’s portrayal of women in Battlefield 5 and rudely requested the studio to remove the female characters because it would “break immersion.” Neither gave into tornado of orders but it shows how this movement-driven mentality spreads to plenty of different games.
And it’s those petitions and anger-driven movements that make the relationship between developer and fans an abusive one. Civilly asking about future plans and polite requests are one thing but creating campaigns and sending hateful tweets creates this plague-like aura around the whole discussion. Learning how to ask for something and what to ask for are key and, when done right, create a symbiotic relationship between customer and creator.
The Spider-Man PS4 Raimi suit is an odd example but symbolic of this relationship going sour and at a glance, gives the impression that harassment works. Developers have the responsibility to know what their games need but also to listen to respectful fan feedback when they’re out of line. And those fans have the responsibility to know how to speak to developers in order to help them in making the game better. It’s just up to both to responsibly use that power.