Hit Shift. The jet engines kick in. If I do things just right, they never shut off.
Glide straight through the lasers at the start. The trick is not to move.
Angle myself a little right. How close can I get to this saw blade without eating it? That close. Yes.
The road splits in two. Drive straight at the fork. Jump it, flip upside down. Slide between all the lasers. Jump, flip right side up. Hit the gate.
Why am I only playing this one level? I log into Guild Wars 2, grab my daily chest, log out, then fire up Distance and run the Monolith level. Every day.
There are something on the order of 160ish other games on my profile. But, every day, Distance. Every day, Monolith.
Flip to catch the ceiling. Have to land on the hexagons — that way, I don’t lose too much momentum.
Three tricky flips here. The road hairpins both horizontally and vertically. Angle left, so when I use my left maneuvering jets to flip, I end up in the middle of the road.
Three times. Nailed it. Dodge the stalactites jamming themselves up onto the track. Brush them.
Flip again. This is the trickiest one — got to get my wheels over juuust right to grab onto the underside of the road and keep control. Yes, got it.
No-one else plays Distance. Not in my friends group, not at this time of night. I’m the only one boosting down these neon roads.
Next is the long, slow corkscrew into three sets of collapsing walls — I thread the needle, fitting into the tiny gaps between each set. Follow the road. Three gates. Hit them all.
I’ve done this a million times. My fingers are starting to bleed this level. Of the 29 hours I’ve put into Distance, I’m willing to bet half of them or more are just runs of Monolith.
This part is tough. I have to make a choice. Deploy my wings and fly past the hail of stalactites slamming onto the track? Or hit the maneuvering jets, land, and drive between them? Flying is safer and slower. Driving is riskier and faster.
I hit the jets. W, to nose down. S, to bring my rear end level. I touch the track gently, pixels away from the first of the stalactites. Weave my way through, then immediately thread between two sets of saw blades.
The track bends into a mouth of grinding gears. Angle left, jump high up, barrel roll to refresh my jet engines, slam to the ground. Go upside down. Flip, touch down between more saw blades and lasers.
I have to take the narrowest path — it’s the hardest, but it sets me up for the wall ride and the next stretch. Sometimes, I get sliced in half by the lasers glaring down on the track. I have to keep going. There’s a regenerating ring up ahead. It’s fine.
I’ve almost perfected the track. I have the 204th best record in the world on Monolith, with a final time of 2:29.278.
The best record in the world is 2:02.892. Somehow, someone has shaved 26.386 seconds off of a time I’ve spent hours getting.
2:29 isn’t good enough.
I keep going. I keep pressing Shift.
The next section is long. Dodge some huge saw blades, then seven seconds of a straightaway.
It’s a trap — if all I do is boost down this straightaway, the car will overheat and explode. There’s no regenerating ring. I have to cool it down somehow. The only other way is to do tricks.
The most efficient trick to do is a left barrel roll. Two of these early on in the stretch gives me enough time to get to the next regenerating ring without exploding.
Is it because I have control over this? Some place in my life where I have control?
I go down the straightaway. Mountainous walls rise up on either side of me. I do my little barrel rolls. I make it to the regenerating ring.
The gate yawns open. There are five sets of spinning rings, each with three lasers. No gap is big enough for my car. The air is red. I am here to feed Hell.
I deploy my wings.
Tick up. Make the first gap. Tick down. Make the second.
No gap is big enough for my car, but if I time it right, and angle it right, I can thread through the rotations without being sliced open.
Retract my wings. Tuck in. Tap the front maneuvering jets. Nose down onto the next road. Yes.
The air is still red. Black eggs line the track. Spikes shoot out from the claustrophobic red walls. I don’t have to dodge all of them. Just some.
There is a ring, and then a ramp, and then a storm. Lightning bolts are my walls now. I have to fly here, there’s no ground. I have to fly.
Bulkheads close in, forcing me down, close to the laser floor that will kill me. I fly.
I maneuver between them. I don’t dare show off. I have to get through.
A gap closes. Bulkheads slam shut. The road is on the other side. Lightning roars.
Tap the maneuvering jets. Tick down. Tires touch neon-etched concrete. Hit the gate. Cross the finish line.
Restart. I have to be better. There has to be somewhere where I can be better.
Jesse Mackenzie is the Managing Editor of AYBOnline.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and his opinions are his own.