I weave my own On our way to the streets of Manhattan when I suddenly found her: my old apartment, at the corner of 8th Avenue and 23rd Street. I am amazed at how similar they are. Of course, the burger restaurant that was here 10 years ago doesn’t exist anymore, being replaced by a misty-windowed shop called White’s Bookshop Café. The movie theater next door, with its giant speakers that made our apartment vibrate every time a huge movie peaked, is also missing, replaced by Tom’s Cuts and Rapid’s Dry Cleaning.
But the bricks are the same shade, the building is the same height, the sunlight descends down 8th Street the same sunlight that made me feel like a movie star every time I walked out our front door. I remember who I was then, when I lived here: I drank too much, hated my job where I was always “gay” and where my clients – oil companies, pharmaceutical giants, chemical empires – were actual villains. This time, things are different. I’m here to fight the bad guys. I turn and run across the face of the building, only pausing when I reach the top, where I can look down and look for signs of crime.
Did I mention I’m Spider-Man? More specifically, I’m Miles Morales. I’m playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which is based on a re-creation of the legendary Manhattan that preceded it. Insomniac Games’ achievement is a true marvel. I really feel like I’m in the New York game but also in my own New York.
Being here (there, then) inside the game gives me a bit of a twist, totally in my chest. The ache of longing. But there is something else there as well.
It’s interesting to know, of course. When the world of video games mimics ours, it becomes a kind of digital scrapbook. A more interactive version of Google Street View. when I played sleeping dogsI ventured into my old apartment in Hong Kong. I did the same in watch dogs“Chicago, it was such a lively shooting that I had nightmares about my horrible boss in Chicago. I used Assassin’s Creed II to I have my husband show me what part of Florence he lived in before we met. I got so impressed even in games that I didn’t necessarily get along with it, just to let the nostalgia go over me. I could not login Person 5 (Because thinking about high school gives me panic attacks), but just holding on to Shibuya took me back on a Christmas visit to Tokyo in 2006, and made me remember how young and full of wonder I was back then.
But this “something else” is more than that. Think about it: In just about every video game, what’s the point? With rare exceptions, the goal is to win. The goal is to be a hero. The hero.
Every time I visit a game world based on a “real world” location, I get the feeling of a hero there. The star. winner.
I spent a lot of the first 30 years of my life being bullied. I’m a tall, loud gay guy from rural Pennsylvania. I made fun of being gay before I knew what gay was. I survived it, but didn’t realize bullies would follow me until my twenties. I went to London for postgraduate studies and then, on my first job in advertising at Old Blighty, my team had their own “Mike Voice” that they would use to imitate me, even when I was an office away. That sound came with an incredible stinging wrist prowess. It turns out that these creators weren’t creative at all.
Cruelty about my sexuality, my background, my appearance, my voice, my choices, my choices everything Follow me around the world, from my job in London to jobs in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Hong Kong, New York, Chicago and Atlanta. I grew up strong, but I definitely never felt like a champ. I didn’t feel like winning. Like many gamers, and many who are much worse off, I survived the bullies in the video game worlds.