Once upon a time, on a family road trip, my then-5-year-old daughter asked to play a game on my phone. I had sorta heard of but had never seen or experienced the app Candy Crush – so I thought, hmm, this looks fun for a kid, so I installed it and let her have it. Then she let ME have it. “MOM!!! – I don’t know how to do this. I can’t make it work. What are you supposed to do? Waaaaaaa!”
So I came up with something else for her to do in the meantime, and later sat down to show her how to do it – and I was hooked. Looks like I literally took candy from a baby – but I cannot say the game is as easy as that. At first it was fairly simple, just like any new app as it sucks you in. Then suddenly, it wouldn’t let me play anymore – OH! It’s because I ran out of lives. Huh. Didn’t realize that was going to happen, so I put the phone down.
BUT I kept checking back to see if I had another life yet. And when it did, I’d try again… and again… and again… trying to get three stars! (I was top of my graduating class, so anything less is not okay.) Before long, wouldn’t you know it, the games got trickier – a little bit harder with each new level. There were these stripes and wrapped things and these black circles that looked like sprinkled donuts. When they accidentally combined, you’re like, WHOA – what just happened here??!!
To say it became addicting is a major understatement. Pretty soon you realize that you can “buy candy” to help you finish levels as they become more challenging. (In fact, some levels are nearly impossible to finish without a little extra sweet help.) How very clever of the creators. It’s SO addicting to the 500 million people who have installed the game that the creators make $3.5 Million PER DAY*! You read that right – per DAY. See why I call it the smartest stupid game in history?!
So now, I have a serious love-hate relationship with this “game.” Really, it is just like any other game, online or off: solitaire, chess, monopoly, jigsaw puzzles, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with such forms of entertainment – in moderation.
So, that leads me to: What makes me nuts about Candy Crush:
#1 – It’s popular. I dislike it because I prefer to not be too trendy and do something just because “everyone else” is doing it. I really try not to hop on the bandwagon for things – especially when they make obscene amounts of money every day! (In my defense, I didn’t know it was popular when I got it for my daughter.)
#2 – It’s a time-drain. Once you win a round, you want to see what the next one holds. OR, on the other hand, you can’t stop playing until you win this darn round!
#3 – It a battery-drain – literally and figuratively. The phone battery only lasts so long while chasing candies down tunnels – and it’s mentally exhausting to keep getting so frustrated.
#4 – It’s a waste of money. I can’t stand the idea of wasting a dollar on one stupid game to get a measly five extra moves (not lives – MOVES!) That’s ridiculously more expensive than an arcade. (Remember Ms. Pacman? She was only 25 cents.) But people pay it, obviously. I guess spending $10 for two hours of play is no different than paying for a movie these days.
#5 – I never hit the jackpot. I’ve only hit the free-tools jackpot one time in 2 years of spinning that blasted stuttering magic candy wheel. Seriously – could it spin more smoothly instead of pausing and jerking? No wonder it never stops where it’s supposed to. (I do like winning a lollipop hammer though – that’s a good one – very helpful tool! My daughter loves “the fishies.” – Seeee, I let her play sometimes now that she’s older!)
With all of my distaste for the game, Candy Crush does have some redeeming qualities, as does its sequel Candy Crush Soda. I actually think it may have some benefits for our brains. Whaaaaat? Well, hear me out.
#6 – Problem Solving. Candy Crush is based on finding patterns in the colorful candies to create matches that help meet objectives of each round. The human brain is wired to find patterns by analyzing complex data and making a decision based on that input. Such activity helps with creative problem solving and logical reasoning.
#7 – Strategic Planning. Playing a round of candy crush teaches one patience and the necessity of assessing the “room” before taking a step. There is no undo button in this game, so if you make a move, there’s no do-over. So it’s wise to carefully evaluate your best next move to see where a candy might land so you can plan what to do next. It’s very strategic. HOWEVER, what you cannot see is that OTHER colors of candies will fall from above (or come in from the side) that happen to line up and explode your plan right out of the water. That means taking time to re-assess and build a new strategy.
#8 – Handling Emotions. There have been times (like the above mentioned cascade) when out of frustration, I could have thrown my phone across the room, out the window, or whatever other cliché reaction you can imagine. Instead, I can calmly set the phone on the table and simply say, “Stupid game.” (Although an even healthier response would be to walk away, and not say stupid game – as that sets a bad example for my kids!)
#9 – Neuro-pathway Development. Every single round of Candy Crush is different, and even when you have to replay a level because you didn’t beat it the first time, no layout is the same. Plus, each game has an altered objective. This is important because it stimulates your brain to create new way of seeing things. It’s like learning any new skill, and the more advanced it gets, the more your brain is activated.
#10 – Discipline Creation. In the beginning, this addictive entertainment can easily destroy your discipline for doing anything productive. HOWEVER, once you realize the destruction, you can overcome it – and develop a stronger sense of discipline for when you should or shouldn’t spend time in the app.
#11 – Mental Escape. Like I said, it’s just a game. We as responsible, professional adults can benefit from learning to slow down and “veg” once in a while. Our society is so focused on driving results and being successful that many people have forgotten how to unwind and play. It really is okay.
When to play? Well, certainly not in the middle of your workday. That would be inappropriate and unhealthy. I will load up the candy when I’m waiting in the carpool line to pick up my kids after school. I guess I could read a page or two or three of a book, or look through my calendar at the coming week, but inevitably, they walk out and interrupt my train of thought, so what’s the point? Game on.
I’ll test out a new level when I’m waiting at a doctor or dentist office. Sure, there are magazines to browse, but how many other dirty, sickness-filled hands have flipped through those pages? I’d rather keep my fingers to myself and the falling candy.
What do you do when the passenger next to you on an flight puts on their headphones, closes their eyes and puts their head back in an obvious effort to avoid human contact? Put your phone on airplane mode and blow up candies. Of course, this only lasts so long, because you can’t get more lives without wifi. But that’s ok – it drains the battery, too, so a little sweet-fix is probably enough.
So, my advice: It’s not about winning or losing – it’s how you play the game… and play it in moderation. Don’t let it interfere with interactions with real live people. If you don’t beat the round, oh well. There are infinite possibilities of the way the candies land, so you’ll get ‘em next time… or the next time… or the next. And for goodness sakes, don’t take candy from a baby!
I’m curious – Do you play Candy Crush or Candy Crush Soda? If so, why and if not, why not? I’d love to hear your feelings on this “smartest stupid game.” And if you’d like a REAL BRAIN EXERCISE that is SCIENTIFICALLY SHOWN to have healthy benefits for your brain, check out MindPT – a really cool, powerful combination of visualization, affirmation and meditation.
(*Source for game earnings: http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/will-believe-much-candy-crush-saga-makes-every-day/)