Super Hexagon: Are Super Hard Games Really Worth It?

super hexagon

On the recommendation of numerous video game podcast hosts, I downloaded Super Hexagon on my iPhone a few months back. I was wary but excited because of all the good things I had heard about it. For those who’ve never played it, here’s some gameplay footage. Obviously, it’s an incredibly hard game. The controls are simple but there are so many things moving around and changing direction that it’s easy to get completely lost and die after just a few seconds (like I did…over and over again). Now, there exists tips on how to beat the game (yes it’s possible to beat Super Hexagon), but after looking up strategies and tricks, I couldn’t help but think to myself: what’s the point of all this? As I dug a bit deeper, things got pretty dark.

Presumably, the reason people go so hard on games like Super Hexagon is because they want to see their names way up there on the leaderboard. Even though I’ve never been a high score chaser, it’s not hard to imagine the pride that someone might feel upon realizing that they’re better than the rest of the world at something fairly difficult.

“Why play a game where your high score will never be as good as the artificially generated ones?”

But what happens when the leaderboards themselves are rigged? In this Edge article, the author talks how many hackers are making it their business to plaster their name across the leaderboards without putting in the proper effort (i.e. “cheating” for those who aren’t following).

The article goes on to explain how Super Hexagon creator Terry Cavanaugh made it extremely easy to hack the iOS leaderboards for the game. Cavanaugh claims that making it easy to hack high scores effectively make it useless to hack because the whole point of hacking a leaderboard in the first place is to show others that you’re good at hacking. Still, the leaderboards are littlered with obviously hacked scores. (“hack” word count: 8)

Then why do people still play Super Hexagon? I understand the attraction to unforgiving games like Dark Souls where the payoff for extremely difficult gameplay (character growth, advancing the story) is rewarding in and of itself. But why play a game where your high score will never be as good as the ones on the leaderboards? Is that just part of the “hardcore gamer” mentality?

A Dark Souls II customization menu

A Dark Souls II customization menu

I’ve never fully understood the “hardcore” gaming scene. I imagine it to be something like the ’95 movie Hackers except with more old/overweight men. It’s a mystery to me why anyone would dedicate that much time to something that will never acknowledge your achievements.

I mean, I bet there are SOME humble perfectionists, mastering chess strategy guides and crushing AI competitors every night before bed. Still, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people who are REALLY good at something want it to be known–or at least rewarded–even if they’re not blowhards.

 “If you were to pitch Super Hexagon to me, I wouldn’t even bat an eye before throwing you out of my house in disgust.”

You’d never find me staring at a Pac-Man screen trying to get past the first level (because that is literally where I give up every time, usually because of that EFFING Pinky), but you might find me playing a little Dark Souls II in the near future. From everything I’ve heard, it seems as though the developers have started to let go of the idea that the game needs to be as hard as humanly possible (see: Demon Souls and the original Dark Souls). For that reason, I’d be willing to explore a bit of soul collection in my free time.

See, in Dark Souls you get rewarded for your efforts. Mastering dodging and blocking, picking effective skills and upgrades, those things make SENSE because you’re rewarded by growing as a character. You feel like you’ve accomplished something. Even without playing the game, I already know that I’d find some enjoyment in building my character. But if you were to pitch Super Hexagon to me, I wouldn’t even bat an eye before throwing you out of my house in disgust.

I’m not going to lie: even after this rant, I’m still going to try to beat my personal high score in Super Hexagon (17.2 seconds!). I realize that the universal leaderboards are shot, but at least I have my friends to challenge and lord my accomplishments over, right?

In the end, at least there are videos like this to keep me going:

  1. Noah D. said:

    Hey, I know this is pretty late, but I feel like it’s worth sharing, if you were genuinely interested in hearing an answer to the question you posed. If you weren’t, I can only assume you were trying to insult us tryhards, which I take great offence at. Assuming this is not the case, I’d like to explain myself, and at least a few of the other people of the top three hundred on the Super Hexagon leaderboards.

    I’m not doing it for public recognition. Even if it were possible to supersede that one guy with several months as a highscore, what would it get us? Just the same as it gets us a few places below them. No, for me, it’s a coping mechanism. I struggle with chronic feelings of inferiority: If I’m only subjectively better than other people, even if it’s perfectly obvious, my brain interprets this as me being worse than them because no one can prove I’m not. Thus, I turn to the closest I can get to an objective proof of skill: punishingly difficult, skill based video games featuring fair leaderboards. I can work at it for a bit, and say, ‘Look. I’m 66th. that means I’m better than 99.944% of other people, and thats discounting people who weren’t confident enough to buy the game. I’m objectively proven, not trash!’ It doesn’t matter there are three guys are on top, with obviously fake highscores. They’re fake. I’m better than them. It’s one of only a few ways I can remind myself that I’m not actually stupid, slow, and weak like my brain thinks I am.

    As for other people, It’s probably the intrinsic value of being at that position. No one goes around saying, ‘Look at him! what a chump. he’s only 342nd on the Super Hexagon Leaderboards! What a Loser!’, or anything of the sort. Even if you can’t be first, you can get so close it’s still a matter of pride. You can get so close, that you might as well be because those guys cheated. There’s a pride in not being number one; you don’t have to set a world record to feel accomplishment. You just have to get sorta close.


    • Hey man, thanks for reading something from so long ago! As far as my question, as facetiously as I worded it, it was a real question and thanks for your response.

      It’s true, I don’t really have that drive to make it to the top of a leaderboard, but I can definitely understand the perspective a lot better now. In a way, it is pretty impressive to see someone dedicate so much time to one thing, whether that’s a rubik’s cube, a pinball table, anything really, and see the skill that builds up over time.

      Are the leaderboards actually rigged like I mentioned in my post? Let me know as it’s been forever since I’ve looked into it.


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