It's the early two thousands, and I'm but a small boy. A small boy with an older brother and a games console. For us at the time it was a Nintendo 64, then a PlayStation. I always enjoyed watching my brother play games like Metal Gear Solid, waiting for the iconic scene where Iriqouis Pliskin (who definitely is not Solid snake) leans out of his KA-60 Kasatka and shouts "NO, THAT IS NOT THE REAL SOLID SNAKE!".
However, I hated getting my arse kicked by my inevitably-better-at-games older sibling. A young boy like me simply didn't have the dexterity to 'get gud' like I can now, so I'd get golden-gunned in Goldeneye, choke-slammed in Smackdown Vs Raw '06, and bonked to death by Ben Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith.
You best believe I was a happy little boy whenever we got a cooperative multiplayer game. Me and my bro could join forces, whether it was to conquer the ferocious difficulty of Jedi Power Battles, or team up to defeat the flood in Halo 2.
I still love a co-op game, especially local ones, "couch co-op", and what makes these games extra special is when I, the little brother, the player two, have a character I get to bond with, unique to my experience.
Plenty of you out there who played these games solo, or were player 1, won't appreciate these characters. They're just knock-offs of your more important, protagonist character, but to us they aren't just a reskin. They're our personal link to the world, and these characters are so often shadowed by the spotlight of the hero, but they play just as big a role in whatever adventure they're in.
I'm talking Luigi, Globox, Velvet Dark, the Golden Marine in Armorines Project Swarm, the non-green Links in Four Swords and Triforce Heroes, Diddy Kong, Arbiter, Zitz, P-Body, Jimmy Lee, Tails, Mugman. This beautiful mug-headed boy is one of my favourite characters because I was player two for my first playthrough of the beautiful, incredible Cuphead, but it's not the titular porcelain lad who steals my heart. It's Mugman, with his blue colourway and his little bendless straw. What a guy.
Having the second player coloured differently was surely just a technical design choice in the early days to help the players differentiate themselves, but it's created a whole roster of characters that a specific set of people can identify with. The player twos. The people who didn't own the game but went to their friends house religiously to play through it. The little siblings that got the dodgy MadCatz controller because having two first-party controllers would be a luxury the majority of households apparently decided was too decadent.
They may have been overshadowed in history, or not given the love they deserve, but this is our open love letter to them. From all of us player two's, we see you, we appreciate you, we are you.