Rhythm

Wittner_metronome

A little while back I wrote this:

“Lately it seems like all the games I play are rhythm games. The reason it seems this way is because all games have their own rhythm, and in tandem with the accompanying soundtracks there is always a meta-rhythm if only one is attuned to it.”

This is an idea I’d like to talk a little bit more about, because I think it might be easy to misunderstand what I’m saying here. In this piece, i’m talking about playing Super Hexagon. Now, while the beat of the music in Super Hexagon certainly helps drive the action, it’s generally not in your best interests as a player to pay too much attention to it because the action isn’t particularly synced up to the beat. Even if it were, you’d have to account for movement time, so there would be an offset of however long it would take you to perform a particular maneuver, which of course changes based on the distance you need to travel– there isn’t even a constant relationship between the required input and the beat.

But there is a relationship, and I think experiencing that relationship is one of the things that makes Super Hexagon so compelling. Once you become familiar enough with the relationship between the game’s rhythm and the music’s rhythm, you can use the music to calibrate your motions in-game. I wouldn’t recommend everyone try to play that way, since it can easily lead one astray, but it is one of the channels of information the game provides you with.

The thing is: There’s always a rhythm, because everything we encounter in life emerges from the behavior of systems. These are often systems far too complex for us to understand, so most rhythms of our lives go unnoticed like frequencies of noise or light beyond our perception, but the systems are there and they march to their own beat.

Any time you combine two rhythms, you create a new and more complex one: Two dreary evenly spaced tap-tap-tap-tap rhythms become quite interesting indeed when combined, provided they happen at different speeds. The mind starts anticipating when the taps will again sync up and when they will achieve peak desynchronization.

Water_drop_animation_enhanced_small

And we each have our own rhythms. It could be your heartbeat but it probably isn’t, though it is nice to think of that as that which drives the rhythm of your life since it appeals to our poetic sensibilities. No, it’s more just that we each have our own pace that we prefer things to happen at, a rhythm at which we understand the world. This beat speeds up and slows down with our moods.

When we can begin to perceive the combined rhythm of ourselves and the systems we interact with, that’s when things begin to get really exciting. It begins to be possible to really inhabit a system, become it, and control it.

Of course this is all just a metaphor.

Of course this is all just a nice-sounding way of describing the excitement of understanding a system.

But it’s useful to speak in metaphors because we think in metaphors, and often approach problems through them. Try to perceive your own rhythm, try to perceive the world’s, and try to measure the difference and relationship between them. Try to find the meta-rhythm.

If nothing else, there’s rarely anything to be lost by trying to listen just a little bit more closely.

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