Some people have begun to tell me that I have “a hexagon problem.” It is an issue that I take some contention with. Surely, though frequently I can be seen directing that fragile little triangle in between the gaps on my screen instead of developing a program agenda while waiting for meetings with people, it cannot be a bad thing that I’m developing advanced reflexes…right? Surely my prowess at the game Super Hexagon, much like most other skills, can only be an improvement on what might otherwise be a slightly more boring or slightly more ordinary existence?
I can even carry on conversations while playing! It is a talking point with people I would otherwise have shied away from talking to! If anything, it’s drawing me further out of my shell!
Or so I claim. While I’m in the bathroom, I pull out my phone and concentrate on hexagons instead of…hatching…ideas. While I’m on the bus, I pull out my phone and dive in rather than concentrate on my surroundings. While I’m in bed, sometimes my last thoughts of the day are inverted memories of spirals on my eyelids (much akin to the well-documented phenomenon of Tetrisomnia, though without the falling T-blocks).
Ah. Well. That’s telling. The time may have come: I do have what might appear to be a Hexagon problem.
Yet I find myself admitting this in hesitance; not because I am an addict, no, not because I am making an excuse for myself, but because it’s not a negative factor in my life. IT’S NOT A PROBLEM, GUYS. Yes, yes, all right, one could say the same about any other vice, but here I am going to make the case for playing Super Hexagon as a state of meditation and mindfulness.
[Speaker dodges audience hurling rotten vegetables]
Super Hexagon is, to some degree, similar to other basic task-oriented games like Tetris or Snake; you are controlling an object and trying to make it fit into a place while the game gets faster, and one critical mistake messes you up for the rest of the game (in this case, it has probably resulted in you hitting a thicker line and ended your turn). You are actively trying to avoid losing, much like in just about any other game ever.
But, at the same time, the game is not about the positive space. It’s not about the intentional blocks that you see on the screen. It’s not about building rows to make them disappear and it’s not about gaining more lengths onto your tail until it fills up the entire box of screen. It’s not about actively using the objects in your environment to further yourself to an end goal. Hexagon is a game that is played passively in the negative spaces, in the in-betweens, in absence, in what is not said or done per se. My best rounds (if you can call them that) are the ones where I am zoning out and unfocusing my eyes, paying attention to the sounds around me and eavesdropping on others’ conversations. Though it’s fast-paced, I play it to relieve anxiety, rather than to produce it in myself. I focus instead on the problems in my life and finding solutions while the seconds drip by in chunks of tens and twenties and thirties — or even less poignantly, on simply holding conversations with friends, instead of focusing on getting to one minute, two minutes, three minutes without messing up.
And then suddenly, when my triangle hits another shape — usually a square — aha! I’ve found my solution. It was clear all along, if only I had let my mind create the answer itself, unburdening itself from the active process of trying to find it amid the muck.
When you play Hexagon, it’s unwise to plan your moves in advance. The game randomly generates the positive spaces and items that you need to maneuver past, and you’re not trying to outwit it. In trying to figure out how to play two moves ahead, you will run into a wall — into the positive space — rather than playing in the negative spaces where the game is won. There’s no opponent except yourself and the algorithm that tells the game what to put where; when you lose, you keep playing. It’s not an unfriendly event.
You’re not trying to actively find the solution. It appears on the screen before you and as a result you direct your little guy there by going left or right. It allows my mind operate in quite the same way. My mind, at least, is quite malleable. The passivity of the things that happen in between the hexagons is where the game is played for me, even though I’m actively making the decision to nudge the triangle clockwise.
So, while I’m not saying that Hexagon is the next form of Zen Buddhism, nor is it necessarily unique in this way (it’s just as easy to zone out and forget time when you’re playing round after round after round after round of Tetris), it opens up a broader idea of certain games as forms relaxation and mental expansion, even if you’re not answering trivia questions and in spite of its upbeat electronic soundtrack. Games are often based in and around role-playing, whether imaginary or through an avatar on the screen; games alter your mindset and your way of thinking in the moment that you’re playing then. The next time you’re anxious while playing a game, try spacing out and seeing where the story/avatar/music leads you, rather than trying so hard to control your surroundings. You never know what form of enlightenment, even if it’s only about the plot of your current quest, it could bring you to. At the very least, you’ll hear some cool electronica in the meantime.