Marvel’s Spider-Man has raised the bar for superheroes games, offering an experience that hasn’t been felt since the Batman Arkham series. What impressed me the most is the portrayal of Spider-Man’s cast of support characters, old and new. In particular, I found the characterisation of Doctor Octopus to be memorable. The game version had the perfect mix of pathos and narcissism, which is exactly what makes the character such a compelling antagonist for the web-slinger.
In this article, I’m exploring Octavius’ motivations. There will be spoilers, so bear that in mind if you haven’t played Spider-Man yet.
A sympathetic portrayal for a classic villain
Within the comics, Otto Octavius is considered one of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies. His genius level intellect has made him a match for the web-head, to the point that he even took over Peter Parker’s body and became the Superior Spider-Man. His classic origin is that of a scientist who had mechanical arms fused to his body in a radiation accident.
Despite being villainous, Dock Ock has been portrayed as honourable and noble in different stories. The game version has a backstory steeped in tragedy. Within the game, Otto was the former CEO of Octavius Industries and a friend of Norman Osborn. The two of them founded Oscorp, but as Osborn became more obsessed with genetics, he and Otto fell out. After settling on a sum of money, Otto left to fund his own research.
Octavius focused on building advanced prosthetic technology, wanting to give people the chance to better their lives. Eventually, he took Peter on as an assistant and they worked together to improve the technology. Peter idealised Otto, seeing him as a mentor and father figure, while Octavius saw his student as a son. Their relationship was one of the most authentic parts of the game.
The birth of Doctor Octopus
Octavius’ research was shut down by Osborn, which fuelled his repressed anger and insecurity. He told Peter he was suffering from a neurodegenerative disease that would stop his muscles from working. This proved to be Otto’s primary motivation for building the mechanical arms. He linked them to his brain using an implant, allowing him to control the tentacles freely.
However, the implant had a negative effect on Otto’s psyche, potentially speeding up his illness. He became erratic and bitter, blaming Osborn for his troubles and lashing out at Peter. The aggressive symptoms could be considered a form of alzheimer’s. Octavius’ dementia manifested in his paranoia and desire to not feel like a failure.
As Doctor Octopus, he launched an attack on New York with the Sinister Six. Spider-Man tried to save his mentor from himself, but realised Octavius was too far gone. It shook Peter’s beliefs to see the man he’d worshipped fall so far from grace. After an emotional battle atop Oscorp Tower, Spider-Man left Otto to the cops.
Motivations fuelled by illness
The decision behind Doc Ock’s villany was clever on the part of the developers. His need to not feel like a failure is an understandable motive. Many people have struggled with their self-worth, wondering if they’ll ever amount to anything. Octavius’ thoughts were made worse by the fact he was suffering from a disease that could take away everything that defined him.
Doctor Octopus has defined himself by his genius and ability to think. Without his body, he couldn’t carry out any of his research. His fear of being trapped turned him into the worst version of himself. Doc Ock’s fear of failure also mirrored Peter’s perception of feeling like he let his mentor down because of what he turned into. It made their dynamic even more tragic.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is an incredible game and Doctor Octopus’ portrayal is one of the greatest interpretations of the character. There are a lot of interesting characters in the game, including Yuri Watanabe and Martin Li. I’ve written about them as well so check out the following articles: