Allow me to set the scene: you’ve been locked out of Candy Crush following five failed attempts. You must now wait thirty minutes to return to Candyland, but you’re antsy, because you’ve just figured out a winning strategy. You say to yourself: No biggie, I can wait. But you can’t. You start thinking: A dollar for some lives is nothing. I just spend five times that amount on pizza pockets today! So you surrender to fate and make the purchase.
The Candy Crush creators are not surprised—in fact, they’ve anticipated this very scenario. Heck, they just made about a million dollars today from people like you. The fact that this game was released in 2012 and is still making such a large daily revenue proves that it is both highly successful and addictive. The (literal) million dollar question is, why? It’s just a mindless game! (Said no game designer ever.)
It’s far from mindless. Candy Crush is a meticulously crafted game that is designed to maximize the pleasure of its players to the point of obsession. My friend likes to call it OCCD: Obsessive Candy Crush Disorder. The game is very much a science; no component is arbitrary.
I have surveyed multiple websites, each filled with numerous reasons for the compulsion behind the game. They’ve all done their due diligence by interviewing game designers, psychologists, and other experts, making my job a whole lot easier. My goal with this article is to gather the secrets behind the addiction and break them down into ten very specific elements. So, let’s dissect exactly what it is about this game that causes mothers forget to pick up their kids from school:
1) The Candy Component - There’s a reason the game isn’t called Cabbage Crush. How much fun would you really have swiping broccoli and brussel sprouts? The designers use candy to supply you with a happy association between the sweet treats and the game.
2) The Life Limitation- You know the saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Because you can only play for a limited amount of time, you are always left wanting more. This increases the pleasure you receive when you finally are allowed to return to the game, as opposed to how you would feel with unlimited access. It is within this aspect of the game that the company gains most of its profits because if you noticed (which I’m sure you have), the game is free. The Candy Crush makers rely on your impatience so you’ll pay for more lives instead of waiting it out.
3) The Feedback Factor- Do you recognize these words: “Tasty!” “Divine!” They appear after a particularly successful move along with flashing colors and joyful music. We all like to be congratulated on our successes, even if all we did was get rid of that stubborn jelly.
4) The Social Spectrum- The game is not only a fun way to entertain yourself, it also allows you to connect with your friends on Facebook. This upgrades the game from an isolated experience to a social one. Personally, I prefer to bother strangers with life requests. (But thanks, Leonard, whoever you are).
5) The Random Reinforcement - Anyone who’s ever taken a psych class knows that it is more pleasurable to receive rewards sporadically than consistently. This is because you never know when you’re going to win, so you keep playing. Candy Crush starts off with easy levels, supplying you with instant gratification. This causes your brain to release dopamine (a happy chemical). However, as the game starts to get more challenging, the dopamine becomes more intermittent, and you start to crave it. Next thing you know, you’re playing the same level eighteen times in a row to get that dopamine hit. This is the exact same logic behind gambling addictions. (Be very afraid.)
6) The Helper Hypothesis- Have you ever noticed that there is no way to really get stuck with this game? Yes, you can struggle with a difficult level, but Candy Crush is always right there to help you. If there are no matches, the board automatically resets itself. It even goes a step beyond this, if you’re contemplating a move for more than five seconds, it will start supplying you with hints. How can you not like a game that wants you to succeed?
7) The Control Concept- You may be surprised to learn that there are a few opinions out there that state that Candy Crush is entirely based off of luck. The game just provides you with the illusion of control by letting you purchase special candies, however, it is essentially the board you end up with that will determine your success. It is interesting to note that we love to feel in control even if it’s all a facade.
8) The Order Obsession- This may sound strange to the messy people out there, but our brains love order. We like to make sense of everything and create sequences. This is why it so oddly satisfying for us to match up same colored candies.
9) The Escape Element- When you need a break from studying, Candy Crush is the perfect distraction. Especially when you say to yourself you’ll only play for five minutes. (Denial is not just a river in Egypt.)
10) The Limitless Levels- Candy Crush is constantly producing more levels for the game, so you can never truly be done with it.
These are just ten secret ingredients behind the deceptively simple game. I’m sure if you start to scrutinize the game some more you can find additional addictive features. So the next time you think you’re just playing Candy Crush, remember Candy Crush is playing you as well. (Cue the scary music.)