Miles Morales has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s adjusting to becoming the man of the house after the death of his father. He’s moved from his native Brooklyn to Harlem. Oh, and he’s also a fledgling superhero – a new Spider-Man training to live up to his mentor, Peter Parker.
When Miles isn’t doubting himself, he’s overcompensating to make up for his inexperience. He’s hard on himself for making understandable rookie mistakes. As I watched Miles mature throughout Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, it was impossible not to feel a kinship beyond the fact that he looked the same as me. Like me, he’s a new guy trying to live up to expectations of his peers. Expectations partially inflated by his own insecurities and fear of failure.
It’s been a little over a month since I started working at Game Informer. As someone who grew up a fan of the magazine, that in itself is surreal. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, but I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t wake up most mornings weighed down by a Rhino-heavy cloud of anxiety. Being the new guy is always nerve-racking, and it feels even more pronounced because it’s my dream job. I chased it for years and, now that I have it, I don’t want to lose it. I want to prove everyone who said I deserve the job right. Most of all, I still feel a need to prove to myself that I’m good enough. That sounds ridiculous given I wouldn’t have been hired if I wasn’t up to snuff, but imposter syndrome doesn’t operate on logic.
I know Miles would agree. He’s saved more lives and done more good in a few months of being Spider-Man than many people do in their entire lifetimes. Miles could have retired at the beginning of the game and still been labeled a hero. But in his mind, he still feels like he hasn’t done enough, proven early on by how he refers to himself as “the other Spider-Man” instead of simply “Spider-Man”. Throughout the story he has trouble graduating from the mindset of being Peter’s admirer and student to what he actually is: Peter’s equal. That struck me because I’ve struggled with the same mentality myself over the years. No matter what I accomplished or who I wrote for, a part of me still felt “lesser” than my more prominent peers in the industry. Landing this job hasn’t totally changed that mindset, either. I’m a work in progress, and you know what? That’s okay.
Watching Miles mature throughout his journey provided a few valuable lessons about being the new guy. One, the dangers of obsessing over living up to your peers. Peter is a great mentor and his knowledge is a luxury Pete himself didn’t have when he started his crime-fighting career. On the flip side, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to please only your mentors instead of trying to walk your own path. I’ve been guilty of this many times in my career, and while it is wise to pick up good practices from people better at something than you, you can’t forget what brought you to the dance in the first place: your unique skills and mindset. Or, as the game’s tagline succinctly puts it: “Be yourself.”
The next thing is forgiving yourself for making mistakes. Miles screws up but his blunders are ones anyone in his position would have made, more often than not. I couldn’t help but want to tell him, “Dude, there’s no way you could have known that” before realizing I totally chastise myself in a similar manner. Sometimes you have to watch others endure the same struggles to realize that you’re in the same boat with them. Messing up comes with the territory of doing anything for the first time. That’s not always a fun lesson to learn; heck, I still beat myself up for publishing articles with a simple typo. Mistakes are how you learn, though, and Miles grows as a hero with every idea or plan gone awry.
Lastly, don’t overcompensate. One great moment in the game sees Miles’ Uncle Aaron remind him of the value of a healthy work/life balance; pushing himself to be Spider-Man 24/7 just to prove his worth will only do more harm than good. Working hard is important, but don’t kill yourself in an effort to mask your inexperience. Of course, my job is a bit less demanding than guarding an entire city from crime, but it’s a great point to keep in mind nonetheless.
As a life-long Spider-Man fan, watching Miles take his first steps as a superhero is nothing new. I’m a fan of his comics as well as the excellent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse film. At this new stage of my life, however, Spider-Man: Miles Morales couldn’t have come at a better time. It reminded me that being the fresh-faced rookie with a lot to learn is okay, imparting valuable wisdom to make the transition smoother. After all, we don’t have to be great at something to start. You have to start to become great.