Spider-Man Nexus Mods controversy spotlights the best way to handle hate

A zero tolerance policy for trolls.

Marvel's Spider-Man
Sony Interactive Entertainment

Marvel’s Spider-Man has made its way from the PlayStation to PC, and it is better than ever. With the ability to mod the game, fans have taken the opportunity to customize it to their liking. Most of these have been silly additions, such as replacing Spider-Man with Stan Lee.

But one modder has gone to great lengths to remove any reference to the LGBTQ+ community. Mod site Nexus Mods has removed the mod in a bold showing of how the gaming community at large should handle hate.

The mod in question replaced every Pride flag.

Sony Interactive Entertainment

What happened? — on August 15th, a mod titled “Non-Newtonian New York” was uploaded to Nexus Mods, one of the biggest mod hosting sites around. Created by a user with a prank call level joke name “Mike Hawk”, the mod removed every Pride flag from Marvel’s Spider-Man. The mod name is a reference to the effect that occurs when a light is shown through a prism and separates into a rainbow.

The mod went semi-viral, reaching the top of r/gaming on Reddit with over 2,700 upvotes before the thread was removed by moderators for currently unknown reasons.

In response, Nexus Mods released a statement announcing they had removed the mod and banned the author, not only the joke account but the user’s main account. “We are for inclusivity, we are for diversity,” said Nexus Mods, “if we think someone is uploading a mod on our site with the intent to deliberately be against inclusivity and/or diversity then we will take action against it.”

Mod sites like Nexus Mods give players the freedom to change their game in wild ways.

Bethesda / Trainwiz

The statement also points out that Marvel’s Spider-Man has admittedly very few Pride flags throughout the game, and the mod was clearly made to troll people. The site then goes on to send a message to people who might be upset over this mod's removal (who have made their voices heard on subreddits and other forums) by telling them if they don’t like it, they can delete their accounts.

“We don't want to and won't argue this with you. We've now explained our stance and we won't be providing a platform for you to distort our position in order to feed an irrational and paranoid narrative. You can do that elsewhere, where we won't care enough to read it.”

The Inverse Analysis — One of the joys of PC gaming is the opportunity to mod games. The massive modding community creates ways to replace characters, add content, or make experiences good enough to become their own games. Modding is about the freedom to build the gaming experience you want. Historically it is also a way for the community to address issues that developers have ignored or may not have the resources to address. For the LGBTQ+ gaming community modding has given many the representation the industry at large has struggled to deliver.

Some of the most popular mods of all time on Nexus mods for games in the Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises are the ones that open gender restrictions on romances. This has allowed LGBTQ+ gamers to feel represented, even when the official developer did not solve the problem. The bad-faith argument against this Spider-Man mod’s removal is that if modding is about freedom then why can’t gamers mod the game to be as hateful against diversity and inclusion as they are? The answer is that they still can. Nexus Mods is just one site, maybe the biggest but still just one site.

The mod community opened up representation for LGBTQ+ gamers when publishers and developers wouldn't.


Nothing truly disappears on the internet, if people whine they have been silenced by the removal of a homophobic mod, they can just get it somewhere else. But they value the controversy and trolling more than anything else. Nexus Mods’ willingness to take responsibility for the content on their platform and refuse to punch down at marginalized communities is a welcome move in an industry where too many publishers and developers only offer thoughts and prayers when something goes wrong.

Since the original mod’s removal, there have been new mods that replace every American flag in the game with the Pride Flag, or a myriad of other flags that support marginalized communities — none of these have been removed. Some have complained this is hypocritical. But as Nexus Mods has stated, “if this policy upsets you, then please, delete your account and move on, as we will.”

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