On Super Hexagon, and How Games Trick You With Choice
Of course, there are issues with this idea. Your choices aren’t always really “choices,” so much, and rarely are they extremely complex. Binaries abound, and while they might be tough in the moment — leave character X on the side of the road or let them stay after a transgression, leave the krogan on the path to extinction or give them a chance at life at the risk of their overtaking the galaxy — they are only tough because of your preconceived notions and the information you’ve gathered. They also have little effect on the reality of your game experience, more often than not.
Super Hexagon, on the other hand, goes hard in the other direction. You have only a single binary choice to make, with its parameters constantly updated. Either choice isn’t necessarily wrong, and often the game just requires that you pick, not that you pick wisely. And it spends its existence doing everything it can to make the information you need to make that choice as suspect as possible, by bombarding you with more information that you don’t need, like color, rotation, audio and so on.
Other games provide you choices to make the game environment more responsive. Super Hexagon’s world fights your ability to make those choices, and you might extrapolate that into the larger world, if you wanted. All that extraneous information as the hexagon spins and the beat thumps is meant to make you choose poorly; to manipulate you, in a sense, into making a choice based on the wrong information. Whether that choice is correct or incorrect is inconsequential — the game only wants you to struggle to make it, and it punishes you most thoroughly (if you can call it punishment) when you hesitate and try to gather your wits. Parallels in other realms, like politics, seem pretty easily applicable.
But to keep things a little simpler, I think there’s an interesting discussion to be had here about how Super Hexagon reminds you that choice doesn’t always matter, and that many games still fail to really make choice a truly meaningful part of their experiences. I’d like to see the aftermath of a wrong, fateful decision in Super Hexagon: the triangle crushed and mangled, the incoming obstacles broken and shifted, the music screeching to a stop, the walls piling on each other in a grinding clash of destruction. What happens then?
In Super Hexagon, like many other titles — it’s game over.