Thursday, July 24, 2014

Celebrating My Candy Crush Dominion

I have a confession to make. It’s a little embarrassing.

But sometimes it’s more entertaining to just blurt things out, even if it gets awkward.

I’ll express it in pictorial form:

Yup. In case you don’t recognize that middle graphic, it’s an in-game relative standing progress chart: I am the top Candy Crush player of all my friends.

It has taken me 9 months of desultory play to achieve this dubious distinction, woven from the interstitial pauses of transit commutes, laundry loads, and grocery lines.

I have survived the horror of level 578. Emerged resilient and unbowed from the frustration of level 461. Endured and somehow vanquished level 350. I am a Candy Crush King!

My sincerest apologies to any Facebook connections I spammed along the way, inadvertently or otherwise. Your forbearance is admirable.

Candy Crush Saga Level 461: Indelibly frustrating

I’m fascinated by the mechanics that make Candy Crush so popular.

And it definitely is popular. Boasting over 46 million average monthly players on Facebook, Candy Crush Saga has also been installed over 500 million times across iOS and Android devices. It’s played by men, women and children of all ages, exhibiting a uniquely broad appeal that most video games lack.

As with anything that becomes so widespread that it seeps into the culture, many people outwardly profess an attitude of scorn and derision towards the game. Certainly it is a time-waster. But vast rewards have accrued for its British maker, Ltd. According to ThinkGaming, the game’s daily revenues are currently just shy of $1 million — for the US section of the iOS App Store alone.

I’ve been tempted many times to join that throng of paying rubes.The gameplay is transparently designed to provoke and beguile players into purchasing extra moves and game boosters. But as King notes in their FAQ, the entire game can also be completed without any purchases. My miserly nature (and yes, my ornery stubbornness) has enabled me to resist—thus far.

Mr. Toffee (left) and the main protagonist, Tiffi (short for Toffette)

How I First Got My Sugar Crush
Kat, this is all your fault.

My friend Kat introduced me to this saccharine diversion. We were riding the subway home after a climbing session, and she started playing with her cellphone.

“What’s that?” I asked her.

“Just a silly game. It’s called Candy Crush.”

That night, I googled the name and came across this Slate article describing the game’s addictive qualities. Like other match-three puzzle games before it (Bejewelled comes to mind), Candy Crush features straightforward play that begins simply, and progressively gets harder as you complete more levels.

The social integration is devilish, and though I am loathe to admit it, the system hooked me almost instantly: In addition to fielding periodic exhortations to share and like the game, users can observe where they stand in relation to their peers.

Colour bomb! Delicious.
This was my first exposure to such cunning psychological manipulation (I don’t normally play video games), and my competitive instinct was led astray far too easily.

While I was initially taken aback by the number of my Facebook connections who indulge — I had expected close to zero — soon I was right there among them, vying feverishly to complete “just one more sweet level.”

It turns out there is a disproportionate thrill to be had from catching up to, and then passing people you know. Nevermind the game’s lack of sophistication or its gaudy, childish presentation — it’s fun.

Final Thoughts
I’m going to savour this absurd moment, however fleeting it may be, where I am demonstrably the... best? at this endeavour.

Yes, it’s a stupid game, a leisure-time opiate of distraction. But I’ve enjoyed playing it. It relaxes me. At time of writing, I’ve only got about 30 levels left; King periodically releases new levels. Then I’ll be done, and I can start reading Shakespeare again in my spare time. [Note: see update below]

Yeah, right.

I cannot recommend that you try it for yourself. It’s far too much of a time-waster. But should you decide after all to challenge me for the Kingship of Candy Crush — I’ll see you in nine months.

It’s official. I’ve completed all of the regular Candy Crush levels that have been created. I can now relax!

I’m done!! Until they make more levels, that is.