A Tribute to Hispanic Heritage and Representation – PlayStation.Blog

Hi everyone, Hispanic Heritage Month is officially underway, and here at Insomniac Games we are 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 Spanish background, I felt a strong connection to Miles’ story, so I’m happy to share the details that helped establish the game’s representation and give people like myself a meaningful recognition in Marvels. New York. I have had the honor of speaking with writers, artists, animators and sound designers at Insomniac who collaborated with dialect coaches, consulting groups, actors from across Latin America and our own studio talent to ensure that the Spanish representation felt genuine and specific. The team also traveled to East Harlem to study the neighborhood and learn about the people who are constantly making it a living place to live.

So let’s talk about how the environments were affected from Miles’ apartment. Originally his grandmother, the apartment is a tribute to Puerto Rican culture and celebrates Miles’ roots. Paintings depicting Puerto Rican dancers and pueblos are hung on the walls along with flags, straw hats and family portraits. Meanwhile, Puerto Rican staples are found as coquí seed statues, inspired by the country’s national animals, on shelves and as fridge magnets. The set also features Santos wooden figures alluding to Abuela’s religious upbringing. During the sequence Christmas Eve, Rio can be found by frying tostones in the kitchen while pastels cook in a pan. Happy eyes can find other mouth-watering dishes like flan and fresh empanadas on plates along with a bowl of arroz con gandules. When we spoke to Puerto Rican consultants, they recalled their childhood and Christmas meetings and offered detailed descriptions of visiting their grandparents’ homes. In particular, 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 the moments that grew up.

Music also plays a crucial role in connecting Miles with his legacy. IN Christmas Eve, players are given a choice of music to choose from for the party, each featuring key figures in Miles’ life: a jazz tune from his father; an R&B number from Uncle Aaron; and from Abuela, a salsa tune some might recognize as This Christmas (“This Christmas”) by Puerto Rican salsa musicians Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe. At Rio Morales’ campaign meeting, you can also hear La Gozadera, a reggaeton dance tune from the Cuban music duo Gente de Zona. The selection was inspired by songs you would hear at Latin American events: the Willie Colón classic can be heard at family gatherings during the holiday season, while Gente de Zona is hyped at parties and invites Latin Americans to celebrate their diversity through song and dance.

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

To 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 history and world, so we put representation at the forefront through their personalities and physical appearances. This was achieved by scanning in actors who further characterized the real people of Harlem, capturing their different skin tones, age of community members and their unique fashion senses. Our writing team also examined the backgrounds of each of these characters to concretely connect them with Harlem. Teo Álvarez and Camila Vázquez, owners of Teo’s Bodega and Pana Fuerte, are examples of our teams working together to create characters, landmarks and stories that enrich the neighborhood with a layer of personality, diversity and coherence.

It was also important for the authors to represent the nuances of language and relationships through dialogue. During filming sessions, our screenwriters and actors gained insight into the mix of Puerto Rican Spanish and New York English using a dialect coach. As a result, the actors who played Miles Morales and Rio Morales captured the subtleties of Spanglish, and reflected conversations we had with our parents growing up – or maybe still do! Parenting is often a source of love and concern, and we wanted players to feel it through spoken nuances. During the pursuit of rhinos for example, when Miles lies to his mother about the coconut milk, is the conversation mostly English. But Rio catches him in the lie: “Se, mijo, no hav mentiroso! ”(“ Do not be a liar! ”) It was almost as if I was being scolded by my own mother!

The team wanted to put players in the shoes of Miles Morales, not just as Spider-Man, but as a teenager who was 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, the game’s focus on representation gave me a moment of recognition that allowed me to establish a deeper connection with Miles and get me feel like a likely hero in this world. The care that went into the details of the game is incredible and I’m glad 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: A Tribute to Latin American Heritage and Representation

Still haven’t got the web loop through Marvel’s New York like Miles Morales? Learn more here!

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