An Ode To The Most Important Power-Up: Double Jump
This week, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare released into the palms of millions of excited gamers. This series has evolved from a World War II shooter, to an intense sequence of modern military moments to a well-researched projection of what the future of warfare might look like. This year's entry includes a lot of impressive ways for players to interact with the world. Virtual soldiers can turn invisible, dash through the air, gain super speed, enter bullet time, and grapple onto objects or enemies like a cybernetic Batman. However, one of the game's best abilities might be one of gaming's oldest power ups: the double jump.
Double jumping reportedly originated in a 1985 Japanese arcade platformer called Dragon Buster, but I discovered the ability for the first time while playing Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. It's such a simple concept, but I grew to love it more throughout the years. I have many fond memories of using double jump to barely make it back to the edge of the stage in Super Smash Bros. Double jump has allowed me to reach untold new areas in games like Ratchet & Clank and Jak and Daxter. And the mechanic has unlocked new avenues of discovery in games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Double jumping is so prolific that is has "jumped" from platformers over to action games and shooters; I love double jumping to perform a death from above in titles like Titanfall or Unreal Tournament. I wouldn't be surprised if double jumping started to crop up in racing or sports games someday.
The point is, double jumping is fun, but it doesn't make sense. Some games explain why the main character is suddenly imbued with the power to propel themselves higher into the air after liftoff (i.e. rocket boots or some kind of jetpack), but many games don't even bother to explain why their character has the mystical ability out of thin air. Even stranger, most game don't explain why a character can't continue to double jump without ever touching the ground. This doesn't make any sense; if a character can treat the air like a springboard, why does that power expire after one use and suddenly recharge after his feet hit the ground?
But, you know what? None of that matters, because double jumping is a blast. You might think that having one large jump would be just as efficient as having two smaller jumps, but double jumping actually provides players with added mobility in the air. It gives us a sense of control and makes us feel capable. And that is why double jumping is so effective and why it has endured throughout the years. Games, by their nature, are power fantasies; they allow us to do things in a virtual space that we'd never be able to do in real life: kill a monster, fly a spaceship, save the world. Double jumping is video games' way of allowing us to throw a middle finger at physics. They don't have to follow the laws of the universe. They're better than that.
Of course, you're probably not thinking about this every time you jump twice while playing through Advanced Warfare. You're probably thinking about the squad of soldiers flanking you, or counting your kill streak, or picking out the toppings you want on your pizza tonight. But double jumping is a big part of the game (and a thousand others), and you use it a lot, and it is an important part of what makes you feel empowered. Double jumping is so prolific that we hardly even think about the mechanic anymore, and that's fine, because we don't need to be aware of everything that's happening under the hood when playing a game. Double Jumping may be old hat these days, but it's still an important part of the gaming landscape, and we should acknowledge it's importance in making games more fun to navigate.
Viva la Double Jump.
Looking for more hard hitting features about video game mechanics? Check out our list of The Best Games For Realizing Your Free-Falling Fantasies and a feature on the Great Mechanics From Not-So-Great Games.