Because of the problems I had with an over-protective Spambot filter, I was unable to receive any comments for my contest until a few days ago. For that reason I am going to push the deadline back to February 15. What’s more co-op than Valentine’s Day anyway, right? So scroll down a couple entries and leave a comment to get yourself entered to win a pair of copies (one for you, one for a friend) for Double Jump!
Of all the characters in Double Jump who have immediately recognizable video game counterparts, Steel Serpent is one of the most direct. I think only Mariano and Larry, who make only occasional appearances, are more obvious. Most of the other characters are composites–characters who draw inspiration from two or more figures from video games. I felt it was important, though, for Jeremy to meet someone right away who set the tone for the Lattice of Worlds. In many ways, this place in which Jeremy finds himself both is and is not a reflection of the games he’s played. There are differences, jarring ones, and he starts to encounter them early.
Clearly anyone who’s even dabbled in popular games from the Playstation consoles would be familiar with Solid Snake. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that many readers of Double Jump would be more familiar with him than I am. It might surprise people to learn that I have not played a lot of the Metal Gear games. I played the Metal Gear Solid demo on PS1 about twenty or thirty times, but only took the real game as far as the boss riding in the tank. That’s not very far. With Metal Gear Solid 2, I also played the demo about a dozen times, but in the real game I think I got about as far as getting onto the ship from the bridge. I didn’t really want to go through the whole thing. I just thought that the whole “hiding in a cardboard box” thing was one of the most hilariously bizarre elements in an otherwise serious game that I’d ever seen, and I wanted to bring that into Double Jump. It was one of the initial sparks that spawned the novel, in fact.
What makes Steel such an interesting character, to me, for helping Jeremy reflect on the nature of the Lattice is that Steel knows that he is a copy of an original, an imperfect mirror seeking its own identity. As a generally tight-lipped military type he doesn’t talk about it much, and Jeremy has to learn that fact from another character. Even so, I knew as I wrote about Steel that this truth resonates within everything he does and thinks. It both drives him but also leads him to doubts about himself which affect his judgment, and I think that his struggles with the question of “who am I?” makes him a worthy mentor for Jeremy in this new, unsettling universe.
In the dedication to Double Jump, I thank a friend of mine that I’ve been playing co-op games with for over twenty-five years. It’s gotten to the point that a mediocre online co-op game will get a bump to the top of the queue over a Triple-A single-player only game because the experience (even a frustrated experience!) of gaming together is so uproariously hilarious. We’ll chat and commentate our way through a game and only half of it might be about the game. A lot of times we catch up on our lives and discuss our children while we storm some virtual beach or scrape bumpers while racing down the highway.
Between now and the end of the month, I want to collect your co-op gaming stories — who do you prefer to play games with, and why? Maybe it’s your cousin who tends your crops in FarmVille. Maybe it’s that guy who’s been in your World of Warcraft guild since college. Perhaps it’s your own child in a rousing game of Wii Bowling. Who’s your favorite co-op partner? Tell me in the comments, and on February 1st I’ll pick three random entries and give them two books each — one for them, and one for a friend.
I can’t wait to hear your stories.