Candy Crush is the devil. Other things have certainly been proclaimed the devil in the past. Friends who encourage that extra glass of wine on a school night. A decadent slice of cake beckoning on the dessert menu. Sales racks with prices that can’t be passed up even when the closet is bursting. “House of Cards” when the clock is nearing midnight but you gotta know just what Frank Underwood is going to do next.
But right now, the addictive game “Candy Crush Saga” is the thing bedeviling my attention and taunting me into trying over and over again to just pass a particular level. The game draws one in with its initial simplicity. Move multi-colored and different shaped candy around the screen to line up three like colors that then disappear and leave the remaining pieces in a different position. The goal is reaching a particular score or clearing a particular path with a set number of moves. For a girl raised in the Tetris heyday, this game is a bit nostalgic.
I’m usually not one for popular cyber-games. I pass on “Angry Birds.” “Farmville” did nothing for me. Solitaire sufficed for many months of lengthy government meetings and dentist waiting rooms. Then one day, bored with my procrastination options, I decided to see what all the fuss is about.
Several levels, and a good deal of teeth-gnashing later, my smartphone has fingerprints eternally pushed into the screen and the word “jelly” will never carry the same meaning (for the uninitiated, these are squares that must be cleared).
On Wednesday, the parent company that makes and released the app filed paperwork for an initial public offering speculated to be worth billions. Sounds plausible to me. Certainly, the stock could dump the way of Groupon or never quite live up to its Zynga-like hype but if the number of downloads and media mentions are any indication, there is certainly plenty of interest.
Candy Crush not only capture one’s feeble mind and competitive spirit but also — for those who just can’t take one more retry — their pocketbook. One comes so close to clearing a screen when bam! game over. A player only receives so many lives in a given time period so the burning question becomes if one dares wait another half hour for a new life to refresh, fingers twitching like an addict in need of an immediate fix?
I do because I’m cheap, cranky and refuse to be sucked into their cash cow. Sure, I’ll pay too much for heels and cheese plates but, when it comes to my smartphone, I already pay too much. But others I know are forking over 99 cents for a new life here, 99 cents over there for a color bomb booster to help break away the aforementioned stones. In layman’s terms, this strategy known as “freemium” is similar to your basic run-of-the-mill corner dealer offering a free taste in hopes of future profits by jonesing customers or certain religions in which people pay to attain higher levels. It is also how companies are turning these games into money makers. Just don’t let “Words With Friends” try this although goodness knows there are times I might just be willing to shell out some change for an “u” to help out my “q.”
Eventually, I may tire of “Candy Crush” or, more likely, break my phone throwing it into the corner after several continuous days of failure to be drowned in a bottle. Even with the devilish cyber-sphere, candy may be dandy but liquor is quicker. Too bad it’s not as quick as my ability to fail at this game.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.