Terry Cavanagh slouches in the quarter-light, his silhouette all puffed defiance. I can’t see his face but I sure can imagine its proud contortions, the winning smirk of the unrepentant cheater.
Why did you do it, Cavanagh?
“Why did I do what?” he says. “Why are you in my house? Why have you turned all the lights off? I can’t see you properly. Who are you?”
“Don’t play games with me, Cavanagh,” I say. “You’ve played quite enough of those with the general public.”
I turn up the investigative journalizing heat: “Like, seriously: why did you do it?”
“What are you talking about? Could you loosen these? My wrists are really starting to chafe.”
Cavanagh knows all about chafing. He’s been chafing us for years. The game-maker prides himself on creating evil games that prod at their players’ shortcomings. His games are his circus. He stands in the centre, ringmaster to our weaknesses.
VVVVVV in its block sprites and monotone colour may call to mind a simpler time in our lives, Lego innocence, crayon naiveté, but it’s a wicked little game, with wicked little ambitions, hurling us repeatedly upon the spikes of our imperfection.
His latest creation, Super Hexagon, launched on the App Store last week, is no different. Last 10 seconds in its swiveling vortex of nasty and you’re doing well. Last twenty and you’re a legend.
Cavanagh, its creator, has lasted 200 seconds.
He is the world champion. World champion at his own game.
Jason Spillingsworth is the world number three, his number two ambitions thwarted by Cavanagh’s hogging the throne.
“Jason?” I ask him, over a Frappuccino untouched, now grown cold(er). “Would you agree that Cavanagh holding the top spot on the leaderboard at his own game is basically the same as the athletes turning up for the Olympics to find that Sebastian Coe had already won all of the gold medals? Even the running ones in the Paralympics in which you have to wear blades on your legs? I mean, does that sound like something you might say for me to put into my article to make a clever point?”
“Er…” replies Jason, choking back the sobs. “I mean, I can think of quite a few reasons why that is a terrible analogy.”
“It’s OK, it’s OK,” I say, stroking his arm while maintaining steady eye contact. I imagine I am Oprah comforting a war veteran. In truth, I am Oprah and you are all war veterans. Except Cavanagh. He is the Viet Cong and he’s about to feel my Oprah truth napalm. “I understand, Jason. I really do understand. Cavanagh will have to answer for all of this.”
But, back in his front room – his competitive iniquity den – Cavanagh doesn’t want to answer for anything.
“I really don’t understand your questions,” he lies. “Could you untie me and leave my house please?” he cheats. “I don’t want any trouble,” he double-crosses.
“Trouble?” I literally scream. “Hey, Marie, why don’t you come in here and describe to Mr Cavanagh what real trouble looks like.”
Marie Goulston is the world number two at Super Hexagon, no mean feat for an actual woman. She would be the world number one if it weren’t for Cavanagh. His actions have, in no small part, utterly ruined her life.
“It’s OK, Marie,” I say, as she strides in. “He can’t hurt you any more.”
“Where are we?” she says, confused. Anger has this kind of disorientating effect on a person. “Why did you make me wait outside the door till now? What was that shouting? Why are the lights switched off? Wait. What the hell? Why is this man tied up in a chair?”
“J’accuse, Terry!” I say, motioning to the poor, defenceless, poor, poor woman. “See what you’ve done to your victim? She doesn’t even know who she is any more. You can’t just go through life making games that only you can win in order to make yourself feel better. You have to think of the repercussions, the consequence. Gaze upon the face of your consequence, villain! Was that high score really so worth it after all?”
“You are insane,” he murmurs. “You are actually insane.”
“Damned right I’m insane, Cavanagh. Driven to madness by the licking flames of this injustice. Marie could have been somebody. You robbed her of that chance. You stole her potential with your hubris.”
“Excuse me!” shouts Marie, my outburst loosening the tight ball of resentment in her own stomach. “I am somebody! I have a job and a family and feel pretty content in life. I mean, as much as a human can, you know? I’m happy being number two! And if somebody takes my slot, then I’ll be happy being number three, four, fifty or whatever. Brilliant game by the way, Terry.”
“Thanks,” he says, cruelly.
Marie leaves. She can’t take the pressure of facing this monster. I too begin to feel weighed down by the heaviness that comes from conversing with evil. I make towards the door. I can’t see his face in the darkness, but I can imagine those dry eyes, unremorseful, staring out at us his victims.
“I’m guessing you’re not going to untie me,” he says, like a bad snake. “But answer me this: what’s your high score at Super Hexagon?”
“That is really not important right now.”
I close the door behind me confident that no matter what the Super Hexagon leaderboard claims, journalism is the real winner today.
Buy Super Hexagon for iOS here.