When I first started seeing a ton of activity on my Facebook feed from a game called Candy Crush, I figured it was another Farmville or Mafia Wars. Not really my style, so no big deal. Then I noticed that Candy Crush is a “match-and-drop” puzzle game, and I realized I was totally and completely screwed.
Here’s some important background information you should have: my name is pileofmonkeys, and I’m a puzzle game junkie. My problem began back in 1991 or so, when I got Tetris for my Nintendo, and missed most of eighth grade, staring at grid shapes dropping from the top of the screen and trying desperately to make them fit into the empty spaces. It’s why I can pack a moving van so efficiently. I can still hear the background music without any prompting:
I managed to get my addiction and my developing carpal tunnel syndrome under control until about 2002, when my now-husband and I got our first XBox. Which came with Hexic. To this day, more than a decade later, I still have the all-time Hexic high score on the leaderboards of everyone we know. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise, since I averaged a five-hour session at a time playing the damn thing. No, seriously, five hours with a controller and a glazed look in my eye, with Mr. PoM occasionally waving a slice of pizza in front of me to try to tempt me away for a minute or two. I decided I had to stop the day that I called out of work because I was so close to beating my own high score.
And then there was The Great Bejeweled Debacle of 2008, which was entirely Facebook’s fault. I recognized the warning signs: waking up and immediately logging on to play, coming home and ignoring everything except the computer, dreaming of falling gems. And yet, I played.
But I got myself right again, put the mouse down, and stepped away from the game. And I was doing really well.
Until Candy Crush.
I put it off longer than I reasonably expected to. And then I logged in and spent the next four days conquering 43 levels. Puzzle games now are smarter; or, I should say, their creators are. I know I’m being played (pun intended), even if I never spend a dime in-game. I know why they give you life limits, why you have to have your friends unlock certain levels for you, and why the level immediately following one that took you 58 lives to complete is easy enough to win in one try. I get all of this. I know what they’re doing. And yet, I play.
I tried to resist. I really did. But I’m a human being, with weaknesses, and one of those weaknesses happens to be puzzle games. I’ve learned a few things since Tetris: I always turn off the sounds and music (although this has had the interesting side effect of making the unofficial Candy Crush theme music “Bootylicious” for me, since they use the word “jelly” so much). I use a timer to limit my game time. I ice my wrists. (Shut up, I’m getting old.) But as long as there are falling items that need to be matched in threes, I’ll be there, getting my fix. I think I’ve made my peace with it. And right now, my peace tastes like delicious candy.