Super Hexagon is a game in which the player controls a tiny triangle on an axis. The triangle can move around the axis, left or right, in complete three-hundred-and-sixty degree motion. Blocks in the outline of varying shapes, from a square to a hexagon (surprise), approach the triangle at constantly increasing speeds. The goal is simple: avoid these blocks for as long as possible.
My life is a series of events in which I attempt to maintain happiness. I can walk on two legs, sometimes run; I can eat food, sleep, read, learn, exercise, love, and so on. Obstacles in varying forms disrupt these processes, in increasing numbers as I get older. The goal in my life is simple: Be alive and well for as long as possible.
Huh. Super Hexagon is a lot like life.
The colors shift and pulse in a tight dance with the music. The first stage, ‘Hexagon’, bounces between yellow, red, and orange, all signifiers of temperature or broiling anger. An apt color scheme for first-timers, no doubt. The difficulty is listed as, ‘HARD.’ For the first stage. Most will find themselves frustrated and give up before even reaching fifteen seconds. ‘This is impossible!’ they’ll say. I know. I heard it. I said it. Why does that feel like such a long time ago?
Those blocks move faster than I can comprehend. I tap left and narrowly avoid a closing hexagon. Another with the exit on the opposite end of another hexagon. Then another. My palms sweat and I’m not sure if I’m breathing. I can feel my heartbeat, hear the music, see the shapes closing in, but I know I can’t escape.
I don’t. The music stops in abrupt accordance with the rotation of the stage, now the slow cadence of a derelict merry-go-round.
I follow the instructions. I try again and again, hundreds, likely thousands of times. Between classes I play for five minutes at a time. Any longer and I become flustered, my skill dilapidates with my attitude. Breaks allow me to breathe (not kidding) and collect my thoughts. Ironically, after each session, I find my mind relatively clear. My thoughts distend and excrete through my palms. Pools, actual pools, of sweat leave me. Second by second, I improve; day after day, I return. The third stage is miraculously complete in a single breath, only two seconds over the sixty-second goal. Whew. I fucking did it. What now?
There are three stages left that I haven’t even touched yet, their respective difficulties: hardester, hardestest, hardestestest. I’ve nearly graduated with an undergraduate degree in English, my motivation sloughing off with each class that isn’t exactly what I want to be doing when I’m older. Surprisingly enough, I know now that teaching in high school probably isn’t for me. Discoveries like this take time. They take a journey down continuum of difficulties, years upon years of collective head bashing against every surface of every shape, size and color. Each milestone in a developmental process sheds light in retrospection, fully illuminating trials and epiphanies of old, now unconscious thought and action. But this proverbial notch in the belt also shines light forward, unto looming shapes in the distance, their outlines vague and jagged, each a leviathanic mass, a simultaneous invigoration and deflation of the soul.
Why extract such a bold, existential set of metaphors from such a minimalistic game? How can I speak to Terry Cavanaugh’s intent? I can't. However, like a plastic bag dancing in the wind or the particular profile of an elderly woman in a mood of less than ideal altitudes, Super Hexagon is a tattered fragment in the motley configuration of my soul, a game that, as many a person, album, movie, or place have acted in the past, found itself notched within the very heart of my current cognitive and philosophical development for reasons which, to many, appear arbitrary. Age twenty-three is a tumultuous joyride. I have my youth, my health, my grand ideals and metered egocentriscm, but each of these perks teeters individually between blissful optimism and certainty, and sickly disillusionment and self-doubt. The only truth is practice. Super Hexagon embodies this. Patience as a process, the ability to accept failure as inevitable and not infrequent, the gush of endorphin release upon discovery of progress, the practice, the practice, the practice; yeah, life is a lot like spinning shapes pulsing and spinning to snow-crashing chiptunes.
Find out where to purchase Super Hexagon at www.superhexagon.com.