Friday, November 22, 2013

In defense of Candy Crush Saga

Level 254. I'm stuck. 
There's a communal thing going on in social network land that's been around for awhile, and not going away anytime soon: A minor addiction called Candy Crush Saga.

I normally resist the Facebook crazes. I refused to change my profile picture to a giraffe. I never posted 5 or 7 or 10 or 25 things about me. And I never played games, until now. I was that person who silently cursed that Facebook friend I haven't talked to in years who would send me daily invites to FarmVille. I never played Angry Birds.

I'm not quite sure what made me pick up Candy Crush Saga. Possibly the perpetual ads on Facebook or friends announcing their achievements. I think I was just bored one night. The latest news is that the game has reached 500 million downloads.

I'm one of them. At first I'd sigh reluctantly. "Yes, I'm one of those people. A candy crusher."

But, as I played through the levels, I grew to appreciate it. It's a very good game. We'll get to why in a minute. But first my one major criticism: It does try to trick you into Facebook spamming your friends. Sorry about that. But there's a way to block it. So hide all requests from Candy Crush and get over it.

I've been on a roll lately, passed about 20 levels in a week. But I think my streak has come to an end. Enter Level #254, you have to line up two disco balls or whatever they're called, together. I have yet to get close.

First, it's a game for intelligent people. You need smarts to make it through. Especially in the later levels, you have to think strategically and think ahead. But it's also a game of chance, you don't know what candy will come from the top.

Some people like to say the game uses the science of deprivation. I like to think it looks out for my best interests. You can only play five lives at a time, then you have to wait a half hour for another one. So, it's impossible to kill hours, instead you just make slow progress. This also makes it last so you don't get sick of it.

It's free. You can pay if you want to, and I'll admit that I've thrown King, the game's maker, a few bucks. At first I didn't want to bug my friends to get to the next episode so I payed to unlock the first few (but then realized everyone else was doing it so what the heck.) I'll also confess, I was stuck on a level for weeks, the move was one away, and I paid for extra moves. It befuddles me to think people spend hundreds of dollars on the game, I guess it feeds a gambling addiction. But I've gotten a lot of entertainment from the game, and the $4 or $5 I've shelled out is not a big price to pay.

It encourages interaction with people. Real, live people. Well, on Facebook, anyway. Every 15 levels, you can either pay $1 or find three Facebook friends to send you a train ticket. As you go through the levels, you can see how your friends have scored and what level they are one. Sometimes they send you lives. I consider a life played that came from a friend good karma for the level.

The game seems to sense when I'm getting frustrated with a level, because at some point the right pieces will magically fall into place. Normally I'll play all five lives before bed, but if I'm getting sick of a level that will slow to once or twice, or none at all. I'm sure there's a probability factor at play, but that disco ball-striped combo that saves the day always seems to come when I'm getting frustrated enough to quit.

So well done, King, and please send a double disco ball soon to get me out of Delicious Drifts.

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