Gaming has been in the Australian media recently for all the wrong reasons, with emphasis on the repulsive nature which the 1% can bring to it, but rarely do games get the chance to bring real world issues to light in a positive way.
If anyone has played Spider-Man PS4 as much as I have (and considering it’s the fastest selling Playstation exclusive of all-time, I’d say there would be a fair few of you), you may have spent some time swinging through the streets and wandering the corridors of the homeless shelter (F.E.A.S.T) as a cure for your curiosity of game development, or simply to alleviate boredom while remaining within Spider-Man’s world.
While enacting the ultimate Spider-Man simulator is thrilling, I would often find myself returning to F.E.A.S.T as Peter Parker and roaming, observing and interacting with the non-playable characters within.
What I found, purely by chance, was a lone teddy bear sitting on a bench. At first glance it seemed rather immaterial but when interacted with, it gave me a narrative on the state of homelessness in America - “1 in 30 children are homeless”.
Upon research, I found this statistic to be true. According to the American Institute of Research, a study released in November 2014 found that 2.5 million children were homeless.
A recent study by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, conducted in September of this year, found “[A]bout three in five (59%) people who experienced sheltered homelessness as part of a family during 2016 were children; about half of those children were younger than age 6 (49.6%) and about one in nine (10.7%) were infants less than one year old.”
Even our own backyard has alarming results of homelessness, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics concluding (2016) that 24% of those who are homeless are under the age of 18.
Insomiac Games didn’t have to place this teddy bear in their Spider-Man epic, in fact it was such a small detail that I overlooked it on my first play through, but considering how carefully thought out every other detail of the game is, I believe it is there to serve a purpose.
Perhaps the developers who put that in there knew that someone would cross-reference the information given, research it, and in doing so bring awareness to a much forgotten issue which plagues our world.
For all the negativity which gaming can garner, sometimes it’s nice to know that games can highlight issues which need our attention and spread a little positivity of awareness.