How to Beat Candy Crush (and Save the World)

"A fool and his money are easily parted" may be a truthful adage, but should exploiting addiction really be a legitimate business practice?
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When my wife told me she had been playing Candy Crush, I died a little inside. Kevin Spence‘s GameSkinny review ‘Candy Crush Represents Everything That’s Wrong with Mobile Gaming‘ had already told me everything I needed to know about it (he scored it 1/10).

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For years I have been hyping the wonders of gaming to my wife in the hope that she would join me in some aspect of my hobby.

But instead, my influence has led her to the lowest form of gaming – an insipid conveyor belt of meaningless stimulation not far removed from a push-button-get-bacon science experiment. I felt both guilty and disappointed, but she saw my look and scowled.

“How can you judge me if you haven’t even played it?” she demanded.

She was right, I hadn’t. But others had. Raven Hathcock wrote about how she feels taken advantage of in ‘I Hate You, Candy Crush Saga; A Review Written Out of Sheer Frustration‘.

Sadly, my wife remained unconvinced. I was left with little choice but to join the button-mashing zombie generation to develop an informed first-hand opinion of a game I suspect has been cynically designed to siphon cash from addicts, or walk away accepting responsibility that my wife has become a tongue-chewing lab chimp who is probably spending our life savings to complete “just one more level”.

So I downloaded it to my iPhone.

The First One is Always Free…

My greatest fears were realised. Here was a game so immaculately polished with bright visuals and rewardingly plinky audio feedback that most players couldn’t help but drop their guard at its harmless charm. This was a game aimed at young children, surely? It wasn’t really to my tastes, but it was a gently inoffensive experience, with inviting and accessible gameplay and a simple to grasp interface.

After completing the first few pointlessly easy levels, it was clear that little skill was required to get the oh-so-rewarding explosion of cascading candy-linking chain-reactions.

“Does it get challenging at any point?” I asked my wife, but she didn’t respond as she frowned at some candy-based conundrum on her iPad. That in itself was an answer.

As my iPhone version continued to vomit forth cheerfully colourful inanity, the sudden introduction of a different gameplay dynamic finally saw me fail to complete a level on the first try. But wait – perhaps all is not lost, it’s giving me the option to play another five turns. But by selecting the additional turns option, Candy Crush then informs me that it is accessing my account to complete the purchase. Wait, what?!

I panicked and quickly exited the app to engage “Airplane” mode and thwart any attempt to charge me. Fortunately, on my return to the game I was informed that the “Purchase failed! No money was removed from your account.”

Take that Candy Crush.

The Slippery Slope

Perversely, I had finally found joy in my Candy Crush experience. The true nature of the game continued to reveal its hand in a number of nefarious ways; it denying me the option to replay failed levels unless I waited 30 minutes or paid for the privilege of immediate continuation, and ever present icons enticed me to pay up to $50 for various “boosters”.

Single use in-game items for the price of an entire premium game? Are there people out there that are really that desperate? The sad truth is that there are. Addiction is a serious condition and it comes in many forms. Distastefully, this is Candy Crush developer King’s target market.

Having an addictive nature myself, I resent this attempt to take advantage of me and others who struggle with addiction. My joy now comes from my determination to ensure that King will never get a penny from me.

I am not a miser and have gratefully paid for good gaming experiences in the past. I have donated to freeware games simply to say thank you (I highly recommend The Battle of Yavin and The Battle of Endor by Bruno R. Marcos) and have felt I have had good value for money paying $60 for a polished AAA title like Half-Life 2 or The Secret World. I have paid money in free-to-play games like World of Tanks, not because I was manipulated to do so but because I enjoyed the product and felt that I owed the developers for their time and effort.

But I resent the manipulative manner in which a game like Candy Crush is designed around cheerfully nurturing addiction then coercing the addict into spending money to sate his demons. It is the worst, most cynical kind of game design – taking a perfectly entertaining game concept then targeting those who have a weakness but not necessarily the funds to support it.

Make a Stand Against Cynical Game Design

So how do you beat Candy Crush? By resisting its core purpose to take your money. I have already won by resolving to never pay a penny for it. One day I also hope to beat it by being able to stop myself and my wife from playing it altogether.

Avoid this parasitic game at all costs, but if it’s already too late for that, for the sake of your sanity and wallet and the dignity of the gaming industry, don’t let them have your money.

Don’t support exploitation gaming.

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Image of Mat Westhorpe
Mat Westhorpe
Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.