Into the Spider-Verse? (Part Three) – Finding God in Video Games


As the hours until the release of Spider-Man 2 reach “Final Countdown” status, the anticipation for stepping back into the tights of the world’s most popular web-slinger have reach fever pitch… and rightfully so.  Ol’ Spidey has arguably reached a level of mainstream popularity beyond anything we have ever seen before, thanks to the multiple unique takes on the character colliding across the entire multiverse to give us all something to cheer for.  From the three cinematic versions of Peter Parker sharing the screen in one glorious movie to the animated adventures of Miles Morales granting us an entire SPIDER-VERSE of possibilities, the sheer volume of quality Spider-Man goodness that is currently available to all of us is staggering.  While there have certainly been some excellent Spider-Man games over the years across multiple platforms, I am not sure if there has ever been a better time to release one than right NOW, with the fires of wall-crawling fandom stoked to an all-time high.  While riding this wave of excitement is certainly any gaming publisher’s dream scenario, Spider-Man 2 is going to have a LOT of hype to live up to… the world is kind of expecting this to be the greatest Spider-Man game of all time.  No pressure…

Part of the challenge for this Spider-Man game we are about to enjoy is that it exists in its’ own unique part of the Spider-Man “multiverse”… this is NOT the same Spider-Man that has shown up in the MCU or the Spider-Verse movies, even if some of the scenarios are going to feel pretty similar and the villains hail from the same classic rogues gallery that have plagued Peter and his friends for decades.  Paying proper homage to the portions of the Spider-Man journey that align with our expectations while ALSO finding creative ways to subvert some of those expectations is a delicate and challenging balance.  While every version of Spider-Man is truly a unique individual, part of the fun of seeing these somewhat similar storylines play out across multiple versions of media is uncovering how each diverse version of Spidey handles the various pressures and decisions thrust upon them.  It seems that no matter which multiverse we end up in, the person inhabiting our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man’s powers will face some version of a mad scientist with eight arms, there will always be a Norman Osbourne to make life more difficult, and at some point, a symbiotic creature will arrive and ensure things get SUPER weird.  And while WATCHING these scenarios play out on the big screen has been a dream come true for a lifelong Spider-Man fan such as myself, it is COMPLETELY different to take the controller into my hands and actually ACCOMPLISH these stunning feats myself.  For this game to truly work and live up to the legacy of what has been built so far, the developers for this game will have to be consistent with what makes the character of Spider-Man so timelessly relatable and relevant while also making this adventure compelling as a unique, playable, personal adventure.  The task to take something so familiar and make it still feel just as powerful and epic the hundredth time around is a tough challenge.  Sony and Insomniac Games, I just want to tell you both good luck, and that we are all counting on you. 

Before we dive into the final part of our Spider-Man 2 series, here are the first two parts if you missed them and would like to get caught up:

As a lifelong fan of the Bible, I must confess that I have reached a level of familiarity with some of the stories that it contains to the point that I have almost ceased to see the supernatural in them… I know, I know, that sounds terrible.  But let’s be honest with each other… when David picks up those five smooth stones, do we all still get the same level of goosebumps thinking about the nearly unwinnable battle he is about to face or does our knowledge of Goliath’s fall make this seem a little less remarkable and more of a foregone conclusion each time we read it?  Over my years of reading and re-reading these events, some of these epic moments feel more like a formality than a miracle… I know that David will soundly defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17), Daniel will be safely pulled out of that lion’s den (Daniel 6), his three friends will walk out of that fiery furnace without even smelling like smoke (Daniel 3), hundreds of nearly impossible prophecies will come true, a virgin will give birth (Matthew 1), and Jesus will march right out of that empty tomb (Luke 24).  Much to my shame, I have slowly become desensitized to the miraculous provision of the Lord that He has shown to His obedient followers… I know He will provide manna in the wilderness, because I know how that story ends (Exodus 16).  As I have become more familiar with His incredible displays of power, the inevitability of His faithfulness over each of these unique circumstances causes me to glance over them with a sense of expectation rather than stand in awe of His omnipotence.  And yet, when it comes to the giants, fiery furnaces, and sealed tombs I face in my own life I consistently struggle to see the same “inevitability” in His faithfulness to me… I panic, I worry, I stress, and I wonder if He will show up this time.  Sixty-six books of the Bible and countless displays of His care and concern for His children over thousands of years, and it is STILL hard for me to transfer my knowledge of His steadfast love into my day-to-day life because my giants seem a lot less interesting, my fiery furnaces are more of the “ I just need my AC fixed” variety, and the closed doors I face in life aren’t tombs that contain my Savior… they are simply the places I have buried my own personal hopes and dreams.  My problems often feel a little too local, too small, or lacking in importance to the Lord’s global plans… so while I know and believe these stories of His providence and power, I fail to apply the lessons from them to my OWN personal experience.  And if that is something you can relate to, then let’s jump into some Spider-Man sized shoes and see what we need to do about it. 

Isaiah 54:17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

If I want to truly walk in the faith that I profess, then I must accept the inevitability of two things… there WILL be weapons formed against me, and these weapons will NOT prosper (Isaiah 54:17).  The existence of giants, lions, fiery furnaces, impossibilities, and sealed tombs are a foregone conclusion… mine will look a little different than yours, and all of ours will look a little different than what we find in the Scriptures.  The “giant” that we face will probably not be named Goliath… I am not sure too many people are using that as a name for their kids anymore, to be honest.  But that giant might be named something a lot more personal… perhaps that giant’s name is cancer, divorce, depression, unemployment, homelessness, or addiction.  No matter WHAT giant we are facing, here is the good news… the Lord who has been faithful in the BIG things (like sending His Son to be born of a virgin, die, and return to life) is the same Father who will be endlessly faithful in what we perceive as the “smaller” things (health, family, work, etc.) that make up our own personal battlefields (2 Thessalonians 3:3).  Yes, we DO have a responsibility to pick up our controller and play our part in the game… for David, he marched into a warzone in an unprecedented fashion, picked up some ammunition, and engaged in battle.  For Daniel and his friends, they stood tall in their faith against an evil decree and willingly faced execution for their decisions.  Ruth stepped out in faith to believe in a God that hadn’t promised her any kind of happy ending to her tragedies. But here is the part that we cannot afford to miss… in these moments, they weren’t simply living out some story nor did they know how these events would reach their conclusion.  The most likely ending for each of them is that they were going to suffer and in most of these cases DIE… in an excruciatingly painful and public fashion.  And their faith in the Lord to willingly march through the fire and the flames and demonstrate their steadfast desire to obey Him in these circumstances (even if He DIDN’T choose to intervene) is when the Lord did what He ALWAYS does… He showed up.  Its’ time to pull these webs together…

As I reflect on my own struggle to relate the miraculous provision of the Lord throughout the Bible to His obedient children with my own much smaller and less world-altering problems, I have come to a realization that made my Spidey-Sense tingle… David, Ruth, Daniel, Esther, Mary, Job, and all the rest had no idea at the time that they were facing these giants that these adventures would become iconic stories of faith.  Mary was just a pregnant, unmarried teenager.  David was nothing more than a shepherd boy who occupied the lowest position at his family’s table.  Ruth was a childless, homeless, immigrant widow. Job was a sick, bereft, bankrupt guy with a wife whose “encouragement” for him was for him to curse God and die.  NONE of these individuals understood that they were in a “Bible story”… they were just living out their personal, private, and painful existences in their own local way until GOD showed up and did what ONLY He could do.  And as I reflect on my day-to-day challenges, my “story” doesn’t feel like it is as big as theirs… I am just an ordinary dude, struggling to live a small and simple life, unsure of why the Lord would bother showing up in my battles that are decidedly smaller in scale.  But it is not the name or size of our giants that determine the Lord’s interest or involvement in our battles… it is in His Divine CHARACTER to save His children, so that’s what He does.      

The ”larger-than-life” adventures of Spider-Man on the big screen are part of the draw of his persona… in each iteration of Spider-Man, we find a soul that is in WAY over their head against forces beyond their comprehension engaging in battles that are only winnable because of a miraculous gift they received.  When I bring this adventure home on my personal gaming console, I don’t worry if my video game version of Spider-Man will lack any of his iconic powers… as soon as I boot up the game, I have complete confidence that I will be slinging webs, climbing walls, taking death-defying dives, and bringing down the villains that threaten my city.  My personal, “at home” version of Spider-Man may not be 100% identical to the one gracing the IMAX theaters, but the powers that fuel his journey as well as the destiny he has been given remain the same… this is simply MY localized version of Spider-Man.  And while I should expect that I will be facing Venom, interacting with Doc Ock, and dealing with at least one Osbourne during this journey, I can also rest assured that I will be carrying the benefits of that infamous “spider bite” with me into these battles.  And if I can have faith that my smaller, more personal, “at home” version of Spider-Man has access to all the same capabilities as his bigger screen brethren, then perhaps it is not that my faith in the Lord is small… I am simply failing to apply it in the correct direction, demonstrating my confidence in His past exploits with an almost casual demeanor while overlooking His ability to act in my present circumstances. 

Matthew 6:25-34 Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Here is the encouragement that I am speaking to myself as much as to anyone else who reads this… the same Lord who showed up in a lion’s den, a fiery furnace, in the shadow of a giant and in a sealed tomb has not changed (Hebrews 13:8, Malachi 3:6).  But He is also the same Lord who took time out of His day to turn water into wine to protect an unnamed couple’s wedding day (John 2), miraculously provided a needed income tax payment through a coin in a fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:24-27), and demonstrated a desire to heal the bodies and souls of those in need well out of the public’s eye JUST because He wanted to help them (Matthew 12:15, Matthew 14:14).  And if we need a reminder of who He is as well as how much we mean to Him, we need to recall that He cares enough about the birds of the air and the flowers of the field to clothe and care for them individually… and we are worth infinitely more to Him than any of those (Matthew 6:25-34).  Let’s read about the lives of those who served the Lord without ANY promises that He would show up on their behalf a little differently… He didn’t promise to David that He would only need one of those rocks, He never guaranteed Esther that she would survive her encounter with her enemies, He didn’t deliver flame-retardant pajamas to Daniel’s friends, and He made no promises to Ruth that she would ever see the light at the end of her tunnel.  He just showed up in His perfect time… and He still shows up today the exact same way.

Our Spider-Man 2 journey is about to begin, and it will be made up of some story beats that every Spidey fan over the years will remember and appreciate as well as contain new content that will deviate from the formula that has been so successful in previous comics, movies, and games.  But the ESSENCE of what makes the Spider-Verse so familiar and enjoyable will be the same… friends and foes may appear a little bit differently, storylines may see a slight variance, and the way you choose to complete the missions in the game might occur in a different order than my playthrough.  But we are all “Spider-People” here, with a shared destiny to fulfill, similar pains to endure, and the same source of power to propel us through our adventures.  And as I look over the ways that the Lord has shown His love, power, and grace to His children over the years, I realize that my familiarity with these stories shouldn’t make them feel any less powerful… they should remind me that I am part of a multiverse of believers who have endured journeys that are both similar and unique, facing giants who carry different names but share the same goal of crushing us under their feet.  They didn’t know it at the time, but their perseverance under fire would one day provide a foundation for the faith of many… including yours truly.  And who knows if the small, seemingly insignificant battles that we are each facing will serve a similar purpose to souls that we will never meet… a tale of the Lord’s faithfulness in our impossible circumstances to encourage them through their challenges. 

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Just as every version of Spider-Man has found over the years, there may be small differences in the villains we face and our specific gifts and mission may vary, but we are all part of this same family.  The “gift” of this Spider-bite doesn’t mean the absence of problems, but the promise of Divine protection against the worst that our enemies can throw at us.  Our stories may see different permutations as we explore our unique “Spider-verses”, but the unchanging, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Lord at the center of our story unifies our narratives in one glorious, explosive, undeniable fact through the annals of time and beyond.  He is FAITHFUL in the big things, the small things, and everything in between… in every version of our “Spider-Verse” and beyond 😊  

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