Any of you who are unfortunate enough to follow me on Twitter will probably know that, this week, I got a new tattoo. I spent over six hours sitting on a very uncomfortable adjustable bench while a needle pierced my skin around 2,000 times per minute. It was injecting insoluble ink through the epidermis and depositing it in the dermis. It hurt.
Those of you with tattoos will know how much it hurts and those without can probably imagine. Just think about a needle (for shading they use little rows of five, seven or more needles, side-by-side) punctuating your skin 35 times per second, to a depth of one millimeter. It hurts.
And yet, I fell asleep. The buzzing machine, reminiscent of a dentist’s drill, the constant pain, the warm room and the lack of any distraction were kind of hypnotic. So I had a little nap.
By the third time, I was already swearing at my television and questioning the parentage of anybody who had anything to do with developing this game. By the seventh or eighth time, I could hear the controller creaking in my hands as my knuckles turned white.
The eleventh time I failed, I’m fairly sure my loud tirade of – frankly – disgusting language could be heard from the next town over. On the twelfth time, I was victorious and this game was amazing. It was the best game ever made and I was moving on to a new challenge in a new section of the game with a big smile on my face.
So, today, as I was rubbing nappy (that’s diaper, if you’re American) care ointment into my new tattoo, I caught myself thinking: why do we do it to ourselves?
As strange as it sounds, I relished the pain under that needle. I wanted it. I enjoyed the feeling. I knew it would hurt and that was part of the whole process. I’d go into a tattoo studio and I’d sit for hours in pain. I’d spend several days with what is essentially a bad abrasion and some serious bruising. I’d rub stiff ointment, packaged as salve for babies’ nappy sores, into that large wound so it didn’t scab over or reject the ink. And when it was all over, I’d have this piece of art on my skin for the rest of my life.
Playing my review game is a similar (although less permanent) experience. I’m going through all those failures, as frustrating and infuriating as they are, because I’m rewarded with something (albeit fleetingly) awesome at the end of it. I endure the suffering because of the reward.
So then I thought about Terry Cavanagh’s latest game, which came out on iOS this week. It’s called Super Hexagon and it seems like almost everyone I know is raving about it. I hate it. I mean, I really, really can’t stand it. I’m sure it’s very well made and it certainly seems to be grabbing the limelight and selling well but it’s just really not for me. For those who haven’t been playing, or who can’t face the fit-inducing trailer for the game, I’ll attempt to explain.[drop2]You touch the left or right side of the screen to rotate a little dot around the middle of a hexagonal pivot as barriers continually approach on any number of the six sides. There’s always a gap in the barriers that you’ll need to line up with, otherwise it’s game over. It seems like any score over 60 seconds on the easiest difficulty is a decent attempt. I made it to about 8 seconds in roughly five minutes of continuous attempts and then deleted the game from my iPhone.
Now, some of you will take the blinkered, lazy approach and assume that I don’t like it because I’m not very good at it. Whatever. There’s many things that I am very good at that I hate equally as much and just as many things that I’m utterly terrible at but love, all the same.
For those of you still following (well done and thanks for sticking with me this long), I’ve worked out what I don’t like about Super Hexagon: all you earn is the right to say you did something and measure that against someone else’s accomplishment within an extremely narrow field.
I just don’t care if you can score more than I can. The size of your electronic phallus – or whatever it’s compensating for – is of no interest to me. I simply don’t want what the reward is in Super Hexagon. The objective – the game – will still be the same. I won’t have anything new to experience.
So, it seems that I’m perfectly happy to endure hours of pain and days of discomfort for a picture on my arm. I can put up with multiple, infuriating, obscenity-inducing frustrations if I’m relatively sure there’s something new to see on the other side. But I won’t give more than five minutes of focussed repetition to see my name higher up a leaderboard than yours.
I still don’t know what that means about my character but at least now I understand where some of my limits are.