The Candy Crush Victim's Weak Cries For Help
I’ve noticed something. And I’m not advocating here, but I’ve got this game and I play it. A lot.
It demands nearly nothing at all. It kills time.
One night out of boredom I downloaded it onto my phone and it got its hooks into me right away. That ever happen to you?
Months before I picked this game at random, I stood idly and watched as a man seated in front of me on the train home played a game very similar to what I understood the hugely popular “Candy Crush” to be like. I thought nothing of it then. It looked like the relaxing, heedlessly pleasurable time-suck it surely was.
If you’re like me your relationship with games is spotty and poor. When you're not goofing with your family playing Rumikub or Connect Four, you go into Google Play and download the first four or five that look cool (free, mind you), play each of them for about five minutes to a day (until they bore you), then delete them immediately. You’re not the best candidate to “rate” anything.
Then out of no desire at all you stumble into something that really sticks.
I’m no brainiac. My analog love for things like Pinball rules my school. I get manipulated by games where I can smash and connect. Try a little and win large.
But Jewels Temple by the Springcomes Co. Studio manages to increase my concentration and problem solving skills while it teaches me how to play it. The moves it suggests are never the best ones. Sometimes you have to play an angle. Usually it neatly tricks you back into playing the whole board. It feels good to swipe with abandon and make pointless moves. Halfway through a series of dumb choices you remember you can just try again. I kinda wish it tallied how many tries you made at each level before you were successful.
And I don’t know that one can ever get “good” at something this stupid, but that’s not the point.
I’m still just a little flabbergasted that this has got me so hooked. Sure, it’s happened before, but that was back in college and a go-kart game was involved. I've gone so far as to go back to old boards and play them again to attempt a higher score. I never do that. Just like I never use cheats. Cheats are for people who care only about winning.
When I conceptualized writing this piece I was on level 228 of 1,000. Now I’m on level 371. I figure if I can finish writing this I will have exorcised some hold it has maintained over me and can finally delete it. I don’t plan on actually playing all One-Flipping-Thousand Levels… do I?
How often do I play? Pretty much daily. I seem to play more when I’m winning. Burnin’ thorough the stages.
And for how long? I think I should know this. Probably longer than I care to admit… Ten minutes per session at least? One depends upon the other, most likely.
Meanwhile after I win a round or two, the game goes into ad mode, showing me other games to “download now.” Simply unbelievable how many variations there are on the same crap!
Not too long ago I read the incredible graphic novel Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown and realized so many people are in gaming for the money (duh), but that makes it harder to see good games win out. I don’t mean gaming like gambling here. I mean the real spirit of gaming as engaging in that which might enrich the lives of everyone, not just those who are rich enough to gain access to play.
Back on the player’s end, I’m sure there are people out there who become so convinced they can play these games well that they end up spending actual dollars on them. And yes, if that’s your thing, get thee to a casino.
However even then the chances rarely conspire with you. Took me a while to understand that too…
Over three years back I got married in Las Vegas. I had been there once before in a previous decade, but this time something happened.
I’m not a person entirely bereft of luck, but early one night in the Palazzo I put five dollars into a machine that made it into thirty bucks in about six seconds. The time it took to push a button. Then I felt it- the jolt of actual winnings. For the first time I understood why everything around me jangled and sparkled and shined the way it did.
This place is paradise on Earth for some people. Not just because they can smoke indoors. But the casino, and the whole city for that matter, is like a magical enabling device chalk full of every distraction, every vice, every fresh stratagem for pleasure, provided you can keep yourself in enough green to keep pushing buttons to give you more green to push more buttons...
A scintillating black hole opened kaleidoscopically before me. I broke out in a sweat. As if on cue a waitress came over and offered me a drink. I took the bottle of water already sitting on her serving tray.
Naturally the psychology behind gaming is well documented and their tractor-beam-like power has held sway over most of us at one point. Vegas or no Vegas, we’ve craved that first hand thrill from sound effects and soundtracks and the collecting of “gold” or “points” or what have you. Blocks falling to vibrations and flashing. Digital order blooming out of electric chaos while the numbers go up…
Smartphone games seem to eliminate this, but if we’ve been fortunate enough to have a home console of some sort, (XBox, Nintendo, etc.) we have encountered that dark pull of frustration- even tho’ we’re finished playing for the moment, we haven’t yet reached a save point to document our progress!
My poor brother, early in his young life, fell victim to this phenomena to the point of not knowing when to quit at all. Controllers smashed and TV smacked around leading finally to success… only to realize at last how empty it all was. He got some credits rolling beside extra 8-bit footage and the knowledge he won, but no parade. No award.
Ah, it doesn’t matter anyway. Back to life.
Perhaps our play-centric brains make it so we can’t use all of our time wisely. It’s never one or the other. We can’t choose hyper-productivity over endless leisure. Each as frustrating as they are fascinating.
Isn’t so much of our adult lives now about answering to this balance?