I feel like I know exactly the wrong amount sometimes. When playing Candy Crush Saga, I could feel myself getting angry at their methods, getting angry at the way the game uses fantastic engagement techniques to make you want to spend just a few bucks to complete a level. I don’t like feeling like I’m being extorted, but I also feel like I’m not fully appreciating how good the design of Candy Crush is.
Candy Crush is staggeringly popular, and brings in around a million dollars a day. I can see why. It uses tons of tricks and subtle pushes to make you want to keep playing. And when you were only a couple of moves from beating a level, it helpfully offers you the ability to purchase a few more. There are colours and sounds reminiscent of most Match-3 games, but there’re also elements that play on your competitive nature. When you beat almost any level, you’ll get a popup telling you about a player you just beat. Whether you pulled ahead of them in terms of level completion or you bested their score, the game congratulates you and makes you want to beat more people. It also doesn’t tell you how you rank really reflects on the world of the game. I know that I beat King52143578764 on this level, and that now I’m ranked #2, but I also know that I’m not #2 in the world. At best, I’m #2 out of all ten people playing on this partitioned area.
But it works. There’s a part of me that gets excited when I think of being one of the best scores on that level, when I think about being a goal other players aspire to. It’s ridiculous, and constantly changing. I know other people passed me while I was playing, and I know some of them beat my scores after I’d gone by. But I wasn’t shown that. I’m only shown my successes, except when my failures can be a revenue source.
The first time I failed a level, I automatically dove back in, because I wanted to beat it. That feeling was stronger than I wanted, but that’s what the game does. Anyway, when I tried the second time, everything fell into place. I won with a bunch of moves left, beat the goal score about five to six times over, and had tons of lights and sounds and points flash on the screen. This is where I felt most in the middle on my understanding. I felt like I was being tricked, like the game made my return great to solidify my sense of accomplishment, rather than providing me with the challenge I wanted, to make me feel like I should always win. But at the same time, that style doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Shouldn’t Candy Crush just make me feel like I could win if only I purchased a couple more turns? This was an early level, so maybe the game curves into that, but the truth is, I only have a half-understanding of this strategy.
Candy Crush is worth my time in the same way a McDonalds burger is worth my appetite. It will sate, but I’m probably going to look on it as a waste. I spent hours and hours of my life playing Bejeweled some time ago, and even in hindsight I don’t think that time was wasted. Bejeweled was a great way to relax, like meditating. Candy Crush’s sounds and visuals are a little too harsh to provide the same. I don’t want to play it, but I should learn from it, because it’s hooked its audience like few drugs can.