I don't believe the fable about the tortoise and the hare. Every time I read it I'm like, "Nope, wouldn't happen - the hare would smash it." It's a tortoise! I had a tortoise growing up and it was really slow. I had rabbits too - not hares, admittedly, who has hares? - and they can shift if they want to. Actually we had this really brilliant rescue rabbit called Kevin - good name isn't it? - who used to pick fights with the neighbourhood cats. It's how he met his end, Kevin - he had a running feud with the street's hardest cat. The tortoise never did anything like that, just dragged himself around eating cucumber. Really slowly.
Maybe that's why I can't take it easy in video games. I can't go slowly because I don't want to, it's boring. And I feel like those cheeky game developers bloody know it, and play on it. They know that if they give me the keys to a game's speed, I'll trip myself up far more than they ever could.
Hoppenhelm does this - it's what got me thinking about it. Hoppenhelm is a mobile game by Swedish team Bun Gun. It's a 'one life, see how far you can get' game with high scores.
All you do is hop a knight sideways one space at a time, and your hops are your score. It's up to you when you move and there's no time pressure beyond lava slowly rising (and lowering each hop forward you make). Enemies generally wait where they are, and traps and crumbly platforms you can see in advance. In other words, when you lose a heart of health, it's down to your unforced error.
Slow and steady wins the race, then. I can almost see the developers mouthing it. But they're mouthing it while grinning.
Maybe it's the game's music. Maybe it's the coercing plod of the Hoppenhelm beat urging me forward, playing on my desire to tap along in time. Maybe it's the lure of constant motion. Or maybe it's because I look at the health hearts, and bats and snakes, and weapons and chests, and think 'Oh I know this' and decide I really ought to be running, not walking, because I've played this kind of game a hundred times before thank you very much.
Whatever it is, I cannot stay slow and steady for long. Each run, I speed up and take a chance I shouldn't, and I die, and a piece of patience floats away. And now I'm also contending with a desire to rush back to where I died in order to push further this time. I spiral, in other words. My patience runs out, my concentration goes, and I throw my phone in the sea. The more I think about it, the more I believe your first few goes are the ones you'll score highly on - before the mind games kick in.
Give it a go - Hoppenhelm is free. Try to beat my 514 high score. Have you got the patience for it?
Tortoise, or hare?