Back in 2012, when Candy Crush made its debut on our mobile screens nobody could have anticipated just how addictive and captivating it would become. Despite not being the match three game or boasting revolutionary graphics it has managed to maintain its hold on us even after a decade with us swiping those sugary treats with the same enthusiasm.
To truly comprehend this conquest of confectionery one must delve into the landscape of mobile gaming during the early 2010s. It was a time when smartphone gaming was flourishing. Everyone was on the lookout for the next big hit like Angry Birds. Then came along Candy Crush Saga. Its brilliance didn’t lie in groundbreaking mechanics; instead it captured our attention through simplicity. The act of matching three candies brought an instantly satisfying experience. With each level presenting challenges and a leaderboard constantly reminding you of friends who had outperformed you you couldn’t help but get hooked for the long haul.
What made something so straightforward ensnare us so completely? To answer that question we need to take a trip, to our brains ” shop”. Specifically the dopamine center. Every time players successfully matched candies. Cleared a level their brains were rewarded with a delightful surge of dopamine—a signal that they had accomplished something remarkable.
Just think about it; when you play Candy Crush your brains reward system gets activated, like it would if you were indulging in a sugary treat but without the added calories!
King, the games developer didn’t settle for just providing psychological satisfaction. They carefully chose vibrant and appealing colors that make each candy visually enticing and addictive. It’s hard to underestimate the appeal of Candy Crush; in a world filled with intense battle games and dark graphics it stands out as a refreshing and colorful oasis.
Lets not forget about the sound. The delightful melody accompanied by words like ‘Delicious or ‘Tasty’ spoken in a voice whenever you achieve a combo provides an extra dose of gratification. These auditory experiences are perfectly timed to release dopamine and keep you hooked!
The Sweetness of Social Integration
It’s one thing to enjoy a game on your own. It becomes even more exciting when your friends join in surpassing your progress or playfully teasing you about it. Candy Crushs seamless integration, with Facebook was truly a stroke of genius.
As our screens filled with the scores and achievements of our loved ones, including that one aunt we only see during Christmas the motivation to play went beyond simply advancing through levels—it became personal.
The game was no longer a pursuit; it transformed into a race, a challenge. “Wait Aunt Karen passed Level 250? There’s no way shes surpassing me!” For many of us it turned into a competition filled with sweetness. For others it became a matter of pride.. Where there is pride there is also the inevitable stumble—the daunting levels that appeared impossible to conquer.
This is where Candy Crush truly excelled; introducing the Lifeline. Stuck on a level? No problem! Just ask your Facebook friends for a life.. Just like that the game ingeniously utilized our social circles to ensure its own survival. When you reached out to a friend for help they were reminded of the game. Might have been enticed to dive back, into their own candy filled adventures.. Even if they had previously uninstalled the game? Your request could have nudged them to reinstall it again.
Then comes the infamous feeling of shame—oh yes shame! Did you miss passing a level by a hairs breadth?The game made sure to let you know which friends were in front.. Even if you were one of those fortunate individuals who hadn’t yet experienced the irresistible allure of Candy Crush you still weren’t safe. Your notifications would be filled with requests from friends, family and distant acquaintances all begging for another life or a ticket to unlock the next level.
It wasn’t the gameplay that was captivating. Candy Crush had transformed into a phenomenon becoming a popular topic of conversation by the water cooler and sparking subtle competition among colleagues during lunch breaks.
However despite its merits there were criticisms. There were stories of people spending amounts of money on in game purchases just to surpass a level or get ahead of their peers. Tales circulated about individuals setting alarms at hours to ensure they never missed an opportunity for their lives to refresh. What began as a gaming experience seemed to have grown into an all consuming obsession.
What exactly is it, about the games structure that makes it so relentlessly gripping? To find an answer we need to dive into the mechanics of addiction and perhaps explore our innate competitive nature.
Unraveling the Fascination
The reason why Candy Crush is so popular goes beyond its designed gameplay. It is rooted in psychological principles. To truly understand this lets analyze some numbers and explore the mechanics.
In a year mobile gamers played Candy Crush Saga more than 3.4 billion times as reported in 2018. It’s worth noting that the game had already been available for six years at that time. Such enduring interest is uncommon in the paced world of mobile gaming. But what makes it so?
Dr. Howard J. Shaffer, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and director of the Division on Addiction at the Cambridge Health Alliance provides some insights on this matter. He compares the Candy Crush experience to what psychologists call the “Zeigarnik Effect.” This concept suggests that people tend to remember interrupted tasks better than completed ones. Candy Crush cleverly incorporates near misses and levels passed with a small margin enticing players to keep coming back in hopes of achieving what they narrowly missed before. The games levels are intentionally designed to offer enough challenge to feel conquerable luring players into believing that their next attempt might be victorious.
Moreover a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions discovered that games like Candy Crush share characteristics, with gambling even though no real money is involved.
These shared characteristics encompass the element of surprise when it comes to rewards (you can never predict if the next game will bring a winning combination). The utilization of vibrant visuals and captivating sounds to enhance the overall experience. In fact similar principles form the foundation of slot machine designs, where vivid and colorful imagery is combined with rewarding cues. When players achieve a ‘win’ or make progress in Candy Crush it goes beyond being visually appealing; it triggers a surge of dopamine like the exhilaration that gamblers feel.
Furthermore this game taps into our desire for growth and accomplishment. According to a survey conducted in 2014 32% of Candy Crush players confessed that they enjoy advancing through the levels as each level presents them with a fresh challenge while ensuring an appropriate level of difficulty. With over 8,000 levels available in the game each carefully balanced between being challenging yet achievable.
Adding another layer to this puzzle is the phenomenon known as proof. When we observe others ( our friends) engaging in certain activities or behaviors we are more inclined to join in ourselves. In relation, to Candy Crush this means that witnessing our friends making progress or sharing their accomplishments can serve as motivation for us to play and surpass them.
Certainly King Digital Entertainment, the creators of the game Candy Crush have effectively incorporated psychologically manipulative elements into their game design. However opinions on their brilliance are divided as some admire their ingenuity while others express concerns. Is it responsible to develop a game that skillfully taps into vulnerabilities?
The intriguing appeal of Candy Crush cannot be denied. It has garnered praise. Also sparked profound discussions about ethical considerations in the gaming industry and the issue of digital addiction in our modern era.
Dr. Nir Eyal, a well known behavioral economist and author of “Hooked; How to Build Habit Forming Products ” highlights that games like Candy Crush employ what he calls a “Hook Model.” This model follows a series of triggers, actions, variable rewards and investments. In the case of Candy Crush, boredom or receiving notifications may serve as triggers that lead players to take action by engaging in the game. The variable reward system stems from the outcomes within the game itself. Additionally players invest their time and sometimes real money into the game which creates attachment and increases the likelihood of future play.
However we must question whether this approach is ethically acceptable. Eyal suggests that two factors play a role in determining the morality of products; first whether they have significant effects, on peoples behavior; secondly whether or not their creators themselves use these products. According to this perspective if the creators of Candy Crush are deeply involved in their creation they are simply providing a product that they believe has value.
However Dr. Mark Griffiths, a professor specializing in behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University holds a more cautious view. After research on technological addictions he believes that while most people play without consequences a small portion may develop issues. Griffiths emphasizes the importance of Candy Crush being to play. The game cleverly engages players. Then capitalizes on their in game investments by introducing obstacles that can be overcome through monetary purchases.
Additionally a study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in 2017 found that certain gaming behaviors, those associated with microtransactions (such as buying extra lives or moves) resemble patterns observed in gambling addiction. Players become trapped in a cycle where they spend money to achieve temporary success within the game.
These concerns go beyond academic discussions. South Korea, renowned for its gaming culture acknowledged the dangers of gaming addictions. Implemented the Cinderella Law in 2011. This law restricts gaming for children under the age of 16, between midnight and 6 AM. While Candy Crush may not be the focus of such policies it operates within a larger ecosystem where the boundaries between harmless enjoyment and concerning behavior can become blurry.
The truth is that Candy Crush, with its captivating gameplay and psychological tactics exists at the intersection of entertainment and potential exploitation. As users it’s crucial to be aware and vigilant as our line of defense.. As developers in this ever evolving digital landscape we have a growing responsibility to create ethically.
As Dr. Griffiths suggests, “It’s, about time we acknowledge the significance of our obligations. Just because we can develop games doesn’t always mean we should do so without guidelines and protective measures.”