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Why is Candy Crush Addictive?

Your last present for Christmas is an answer for why Candy Crush is addictive.  Because if you are anything like me and you play it before bed, you fall asleep thinking up boards.  You dream about combining two speckled doughnuts.  If you have a ten minute wait somewhere, rather than grab a book, you convince yourself that it’s not worth your time and open a round of Candy Crush instead.

Someone has studied this behaviour.

And she has determined that what we’re addicted to is momentum.

These games move from easy boards that you pop through like Doritos and hard boards, which make you feel smart when you finally pass them.  Easy – hard – easy – hard; never a predictable pattern so you write off the last board as an easy one, but a gentle dip and rise that makes you feel good and carries you from board to board.

Stephanie Michele writes,

This is the scientific formula for human momentum. Set a goal and then organize and leverage smaller actions along the path that are aligned to that goal. Celebrate each milestone easy and hard making sure to space out the hard ones to avoid discouragement. Discouragement murders momentum and blinds us from seeing and celebrating progress.

So it’s all just vanity.  We feel smart, so we keep playing.  It’s linked to Facebook so our friends see our progress.  I always assumed that it was meant to not only give us a group of people from whom to collect tickets or trade advice (or, more cynically, to give King.com more access to new players), but to have us feel less alone while we play in our respective houses.  Because video games are sort of lonely. But maybe it was meant to bring out our sense of competition, to have our friends notice and stroke our ego.

But, for me, it’s more than that.  It’s more than just momentum.

I’m aware that Doritos are engineered to make me want more empty calories.  They not only taste good, but they plug into some part of my brain that convinces me that it would be a sound idea to finish the whole bag despite rationally knowing that it is too much food before I take the first bite.  And there is something about this game that taps into my brain, turning off the constant buzz.  When I’m playing, I’m not worrying.  I’m not thinking about what needs to get done or my worst fears.  I’m just crushing virtual candies.  It’s the same release that comes from throwing plates against a wall, without the clean up.   I don’t need the music; I can silence the game and get the same effect.  But those moments when I’m crushing candies are the calmest moments of my day.  They are the only moments when I’m not fretting.  Or if I am fretting, I’m not fretting about real stuff.  I’m worrying about creeping chocolate.  There needs to be something said for an activity that is a massage for my brain.

So yes, I play a lot of the ‘Crush.  And I probably couldn’t turn it off if I tried.  I talk about deleting it at various milestones, but I don’t think I’ll stop until I hit that figurative wall and find a level that I absolutely can’t pass.  And even then, I could see myself going backwards and playing the first levels again for old time sake.  Because it feels good.

So… I hope you’ve had a relaxing day.  And if you haven’t had a relaxing day, sit down next to me and tell me about while I crush some candies.  I promise I can listen at the same time.


1 Jo { 12.25.13 at 1:24 pm }

This makes a lot of sense to me. I think I’ve finally hit my wall — I’m on 377… Or I was a month ago when I finally got frustrated and quit cold-turkey. I’ve substituted in my old friend JewelQuest…which also meets the criteria you listed above, yet somehow seems more achievable. After spending a month on board, (364, I think?) CC just became too frustrating. I haven’t even ventured into the Dreamworld, yet. Maybe the break will become permanent, or maybe I will return to it later. I do find I need that outlet, though, whether I’m swapping jewels or crushing candies. Just mindless focus on something ELSE beyond my daily worries.

2 jodifur { 12.25.13 at 3:53 pm }

But I don’t even like Doritos.

3 Esperanza { 12.25.13 at 5:14 pm }

I have to admit, I don’t even open your Candy Crush posts because I don’t play that game (or ANY game like that) and so those posts just don’t interest me. But this one does. It’s interesting to learn what it is about these games that make them so addictive. I find it fascinating. I use all my extra phone time to read blog posts or short articles. I think I would find games like that really frustrating. And, I don’t know, I just have no desire to even try it. But I do appreciate knowing why people love them so much. Very interesting.

4 Kimberly { 12.26.13 at 6:29 am }

That last paragraph described me, except when I hit that level that I can’t pass, I keep plugging away at it (a curse on you, level 461!) just out of spite because I’m as stubborn as they come and refuse to accept defeat from a silly game that happens to take over my life.

5 Catwoman73 { 12.26.13 at 5:32 pm }

I’m with you- those candy crushing (or zombie shooting) moments are calm, easy moments for me as well. And G-d knows, nothing else in my life is calm or easy. Even the really tough levels don’t rattle me- I just keep trying until things fall into place. Now, the big question is, why can I not apply that to the rest of my life??? When life gets tough, I just want to curl up in a ball and cry… what gives?

6 B Haney { 01.08.14 at 12:21 pm }

I’m quite proud of the following: I’m 70; not on Facebook; never bought a helper; decided if I passed 350 I would quit; I did pass it and most importantly I did quit!!! I love this site and will stay tuned like a wise reformed addict. Am now addicted to Duolingo…a free app which actually has me speaking Spanish!

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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