Six months ago, to the very day, I went cold turkey. I gave up candy, as in crush. I closed the app on my tablet one final time and haven’t opened it since. A not so easy, or assured, thing, that.
As with most newly abandoned bad habits, I was reluctant to boast about this one too soon. I didn’t relish the thought of eating my words after a relapse, my many times quitting chocolate an all too constant reminder of potential failure.
Now, after six months, the cravings gone, I brim with confidence knowing I’ve fully and forever broken that damn game’s contemptible spell. Probably.
There is much to celebrate in my achievement. Six months free of the Candy Crush monkey on my back may not seem like much, but considering the years wasted procrastinating away my life swiping digital candies, it’s monumental. Yay, me.
Ah, but there’s more. Like all superstitious addicts, I didn’t just quit out of the blue. This was a calculated cold turkey. I went out on a milestone. A meaningless yet comforting round number the likes of which we humans obsess.
I was ready to give up Candy Crush weeks, if not months, before I did. I threatened to do so many times, warning my children, who often sat on either side of me watching my mystifying performances, that I really needed to stop this. But my quirky brain just couldn’t walk away without a sense of closure. And by closure, I mean target achievement. You know, to justify the whole, pointless endeavour.
Like the rolling over of an odometer in a beloved car, I hung on to complete, and document, level 4000. I reached that landmark in the early evening of January 5, 2020. I successfully conquered said level, took a picture, then closed the app for good. Yay, me, again. On both counts.
It’s strange bragging about such an occasion. It’s not like level 4000 is the highest level ever reached in Candy Crush. I don’t think the game even has a proper, inclusive leaderboard for all players the world over, but even on the restricted leaderboard I was part of, there were three others further along than I, including the top player who had played a mindboggling 2094 additional levels to my 4000. That’s bloody insane!
Candy Crush LeaderboardWhat I can brag about in good, if not smug, conscience, is the fact that I never spent one red cent on Candy Crush. Making money, after all, is the very reason these games exist. Giant gaming corporations don’t cough up six billion dollars for mobile apps because they make people happy. Yeah, no. It’s the billions in revenue generated, a buck or two at a time, from millions of spendthrift gamers across the globe.
I marvel at Candy Crush’s ability to separate people from their pennies. The whole game is designed to convince you to purchase special boosters and bonus spins/turns to continue progressing. The higher the level reached, the more difficult it is to pass. Ergo, the more in need of boosters the player becomes. Struggle on a level for a few turns and your credit card starts slinking out of your wallet.
Modern games are nothing like the old arcade classics or original gaming systems of my childhood. There’s no more starting over from the beginning every time you lose. No cold, emotionless machine eviscerating your confidence (and pleasure) by offering zero mercy at your inability to pass an elite level.
Instead, games like Candy Crush abandoned the tough love mantra of the seventies/eighties and embraced gambling psychology. Like the flashy casinos, the games know that if you dole out a little success just enough times, the players keep coming back for more, wallets agape.
I, however, am equal parts addict and cheapskate. I may lack the willpower to avoid time wasting, but my willpower in not spending money on stupid, frivolous expenditures (hell, I struggle with smart, logical expenditures most of the time) is superhero strong. The latter gave me the patience to simply wait the game out.
Make no mistake, Candy Crush always capitulated. If I took too many turns on a level, it always enabled me to advance. The game won’t stall you. I didn’t keep specific stats on this, but I’m positive I never suffered on any single level more than eight times. Maybe ten? I would be void of boosters, overmatched by an elaborate, unforgiving level and if I failed too many times, the game magically presented me with a beatable setup.
What’s more, if I disappeared from game play for too long, say I went on a vacation for a week or maybe I made an effort to improve my life and avoided it for three weeks, when I returned Candy Crush would welcome me with open arms and a slew of levels that I miraculously beat on the first or second try. Like a good drug dealer, the game wants you to keep using and there’s no better way to achieve that than by tickling your reward centre with a dollop of dopamine.
Here’s one cheat I’ll share with you. One only. A little trick that helped me progress in Candy Crush without spending money.
You earn bonus boosters if you complete a level on your first try. Complete two levels in succession, both on the first try, and you get two bonus boosters. Complete three and get four boosters. You get the idea.
Well, when you’re up into the hundreds or thousands on the level scale, completing levels on your first try can get difficult. This is especially true if you’ve used up all the boosters you’ve collected via other means during gameplay. Those less stubborn than I might be enticed into buying boosters at this point. I, however, employ a cheat of sorts.
Let’s say level 2559 is particularly difficult. You know what level isn’t difficult? Level 1. Rather than send digital dollars into the internet ether, or quit in frustration, I would scroll all the way back to the start of the game on the snaking progression map, a tedious task I assure you, and play from the start.
Completing levels 1 through 6, each on the first turn, was dead simple, me having become a game master. I’d get a mitt full of bonus boosters and then scroll back up to the level 2259 deploying my bounty in besting the difficult level. It didn’t always work, but it often did. Nothing better than a little patience to save money.
I take pleasure in having avoided the sludgy, smelly bottom of the money pit barrel. I didn’t waste our income on a silly game and that alone is good. But I did waste something; time. I feel great shame in having procrastinated away so many hours playing Candy Crush, and god it really was a lot.
That is my lament. There should be joy in one’s life and Candy Crush did bring me that on occasion, but mostly it was pure distraction. Whatever my excuse, “oh I just need a break for a few minutes to rest my back” or “goodness that was a hard spell of housework you deserve some me time” in the end, Candy Crush was a distraction. A crutch. A means to avoid all the things I should have been doing with my time.
Sure, none of those things were “fun”. Not immediately, anyway. But they would have been a hell of a lot more productive in the long run, with far greater joy and payoff than the intermittent, immediate reward that frickin’ game proffered.
You really want to know how to win at Candy Crush?