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The Soldier Has No Gun

All thirty employees gathered in the carpeted lobby for the first public beta play-through of the game. Becky, the project manager, won—she would say “lost,” after the fact—the shortest straw and was player one.

Silence during the opening cinematic, and a quick cut to the gameplay, an older-style side-scroller shoot-’em-up, made all the more intense with the processing of modern gaming platforms. Becky pushed right on the controller…and immediately stopped, unable to articulate what she just saw.

The solder on the screen stopped also, doing a heavy breathing animation on loop as he “rested.” The fire of the battlefield burned all around him. Becky reluctantly pushed right again. There it was: the soldier, without a gun, lifted his hands, wrists forward in a vulnerable stride, and daintily tiptoed with mincing steps among the rubble.

“Is this a joke?” Becky asked, quiet. Then louder: “Is this a joke?

No one answered. She moved the soldier again, and cringed. “What the fuck is this?”

Someone behind her, she thinks it was Brad, cleared his throat. “We thought—”

“You didn’t think, Brad, or whoever, back there…” Becky said, eyes still jabbing forward in disgust at the smooth, ridiculous running animation. “He has no gun and trots like a little girl. There’s nothing in the story to back any of this up.”

“I know—”

“How did this get so far? Is this team a Hitchcock episode?” Her voice grew louder with each word. She almost dropped the controller. “I mean, does—what the hell! We’re here to make games, not fag up people’s televisions! Does no one else think this was a bad idea? The fuck, guys!”

Becky passed the controller to whomever was sitting next to her and barged out the front doors. Earthworm Jim, a sacred inspiration for her and her career, is the only character remotely allowed to do something like that. A well-muscled, bronzed American fruit with no gun was no Earthworm Jim.