A few months ago I foolishly downloaded Candy Crush onto my iPhone. With a visual dominated by bright colours and shapes that would appeal to a preschooler, Candy Crush is a game in which you "mix and match sweets in a combination of three or more, to gain points and other bonuses as you progress!"
The basic instructions are: "Touch a candy and swipe it with your finger. Match 3 candies of the same colo[u]r to crush them." When you make really good matches, sweets explode before your eyes and you are rewarded by words such as "Sweet!", "Tasty!", "Divine!" and "Sugar Crush!" appearing on the screen. I soon discovered that Candy Crush a) isn't easy, b) limits duration of "no fee" access and c) allows you to buy extra tools to help you through the levels.
No doubt exactly as the game's creators anticipated, that particular combination of attributes just fuelled my fever for Candy Crush. I was surprised the first time I ran out of lives and was told I had to wait a certain number of minutes before I could resume playing. But I wasn't about to let some inanimate object determine how I spent my leisure time. How old did this game think I was? Twelve? So I purchased more lives. It was a no brainer. I did it again and again.
Then, when I didn't make it through a level, I would purchase extra moves. From memory five extra moves "to help you finish the last remaining candies in this game!" cost just $1.29. It was a bargain. I lost track of how many times I bought this option. Similarly, I purchased untold boosters such as Colo[u]r Bombs (you get three for $1.29) and Jelly Fish (three for $2.59) to help me get through the levels without needing skill.
In hindsight, this rampant consumerism was a mistake on two counts. Firstly, I got a huge shock when I saw the amount it all totalled on my next credit card bill. No wonder the store itself had started blocking off my purchases - probably in order to save me from myself. Those small amounts sure add up.
Secondly, because I'd essentially bought my way through the first 78 levels in a matter of days by "investing" in extra lives, extra moves and boosters, I actually had absolutely no idea how to play the game. Consequently, and having vowed to not spend another cent on this pesky game, I've been stuck on level 79 for three or four months now.
Quite honestly, I don't understand how it works. I've looked up tips for clearing this level but it hasn't really helped. The aim of level 79, according to a website devoted to Candy Crush cheats and hints, is to "clear all the jelly in 40 moves, while frosting and licorice Xs stand in your way". (I never said this was a cerebral game.) Cheat #1 is "Clear the chocolate first". Cheat #2: "Next use special candies to clear the middle frosted jelly". That's easier said than done.
The lessons I've learned through dabbling in Candy Crush could also be applied to life.
It's unwise to try to buy your way to success. And, taking shortcuts in order to negotiate the early stages leaves you ill-prepared for tackling more demanding challenges down the track. How could I not know this already?
But I'm not the only one to have been seduced by this pernicious game. Candy Crush Saga: The Science Behind Our Addiction - which calls it "the mobile game that's so addictive, players say they have left their children stranded at school, abandoned housework and even injured themselves as they try to reach new levels of the game" - reveals that it has been played 151 billion times and quotes estimates that it "takes in [US]$875,382 per day".
Reader responses to this piece included:
"I love Candy Crush and hate it at the same time."
"It's a game. Let's not over think it."
"I just got out of Angry Bird[s] rehab and now this?"
"Adults play this game? I thought it was for children."
I may have been diagnosed as suffering from "Too Much Crush" on the Candy Crush Obsession Scale but, to be honest, I'm pretty much over this game. For me it was a pointless waste of time and money.
If you haven't already downloaded Candy Crush, my advice is: Don't. However, if you're a bona fide addict, any help with clearing level 79 will be gratefully received. (I said "pretty much over" not "completely over".)
Have you downloaded Candy Crush? Do you love it or hate it? What makes it so addictive?