Like Jeff Kaplan’s Overwatch keynote yesterday, Rosemann chose to use the DICE 2017 theme of “world building” as an opportunity to celebrate inclusivity. Taking Marvel’s history of creating great superheroes as his central narrative, he called on developers to step up.
“We can create worlds that affect others,” he said. “When you go back to your studios and your teams and it’s time to make decisions about the worlds you build, be like Spider-Man and realize the power we have and use it wisely. Be like Captain America and do the right thing.”
In an interview with Polygon after his keynote, Rosemann said that Marvel hasn’t always been successful in creating diverse, non-stereotypical minority characters. But he said that the company has tried to be inclusive, right from its inception. Marvel’s first African-American hero appeared in the 1960s. Its first openly gay character came out in the early 1990s.
During his speech, Rosemann told the story of how Blue Ear— a hearing-impaired character — was specifically created for the benefit of a child who wears a hearing aid, and wished to see a character with whom he could identify. Rosemann fought back tears as he read a thank-you letter from a little girl, who admires Blue Ear’s teammate Sapheara, a super-heroine who wears cochlear implants.
He also spoke about the character Miles Morales, a young man of African-American heritage who takes on the mantle of Spider-Man. Morales is due to appear in an animated Spider-Man movie, due out next year.
Although he received racist hate-mail for the introduction of Morales, Rosemann said that many more people thanked him for a character that made them feel included. “Inclusivity and representation reaches out to the world.”
During his speech and subsequent interview, Rosemann avoided revealing any new details about the company’s specific game projects currently underway. Marvel Games works with developers and publishers to create games based on its popular franchises.
Rosemann said that Marvel’s characters have always been outsiders and misfits. Its culture is rooted in creating characters who struggle with fitting in, and whose biggest fights are internal.
Spider-Man, introduced in 1962, was the first major teen superhero, in an age when young people in comics were generally viewed as superhero sidekicks. His alter-ego Peter Parker was unpopular at school. His enemies tended to be older, thus exploring the generation gap which was so key to the baby boomer generation in their formative years.
Spider-Man and Parker do not always have the same agendas, though ultimately he is driven by a sense of responsibility. Each has to make sacrifices. “We all want to transcendent moment of victory,” said Rosemann. “You fight and fight for the people who depend on you.”
As a comic book writer, Rosemann brought back an mostly forgotten group of characters called the Guardians of the Galaxy, which went on to enormous box office success. “None of them have any family,” he said, referring to the group’s misfit members. “We all grow up and make a new family, and then we say, ‘let’s stand together’.”
“We should be like the Guardians of the Galaxy,” he said. “We should look past our differences and realize what unites us. We should run towards the explosions, not run away from them. We should be people who make use of our own special abilities.”