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The addictive nature of games (mainly Candy Crush)

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Fads in the mobile and online gaming industry have continuously increased with the use of Facebook and many other social media outlets.  Constantly, developers are attempting to find the easiest, most complex, addicting games that will bring in either a quick dollar or millions of dollars.  For example, the ever popular “Candy Crush Saga” created by King Games brings in an average $633,000 per day.  That per day analysis says something really interesting about the game.  Sure, a lot of what comes in is probably ad revenues, but something else that strikes me about games like these is the fact that there are ways to purchase currency and points through the game.  With just a dollar, you can buy enough “points” or other currency in the game to continue playing even after your lives have run out.

The interesting point here is the fact that if a company wasn’t certain that it’s game was sure to be an addiction, people would scoff at the idea of putting in real money into a video game just to keep playing.  However, this concept has been around since the early days of gaming when we would have to pump quarters or dollars into games in an arcade just to keep playing.  What is it really though that makes these games so addicting?  I’m sure there are published articles and studies that really do analyze this, but I’m asking and analyzing it myself based off of my own experience with Candy Crush and many other addicting games.

Another example is the most recent phenomenon, “Flappy Bird.”  Flappy Bird came out in May of 2013 to a select audience of iPhone users.  As time progressed and the developer, Dong Nguyen, pushed out a build to the Android market, more and more people began to stumble upon this game.  It also took a massive jump in popularity when people started seeing Vines related to the game and its aggravating nature.  This game, while aggravating, shows just how addicting simplistic games can be.  I never had the pleasure of downloading the game before it was taken off the store, but I did get to experience the game through my friends and I must say, I was shocked.  I would see people literally screaming at the top of their lungs at their phones because this “STUPID BIRD” wasn’t flying right.  How is it that a game that is literally a bird flapping through the air and making its way through pipes can make an audience aggravated but keep them wanting to play it?

The same sort of question asked above is also a perfect question for a game like Candy Crush.  My girlfriend introduced me to this game and it was mostly because she would spend hours upon hours playing it.  I wondered what it was that really tied her to that game and her desire for people to send her lives.  I swore off the game because of this lack of understanding for the addiction, and it seemed that it was nothing more than a worthless fad that would eventually die.  Today, which is well over a year later, she still plays it and struggles to obtain lives and keep playing it.  This makes me believe that the addictive nature of the game is not behind the gameplay itself.  It’s behind the reward of winning and being able to advance and keep your lives.  Candy Crush, or “Candy Crack” as it was renamed by the gaming community has the ability for players to never solve a puzzle and get stuck for weeks or months on just one level, and yet, players continue to dive back into the game and attempt to beat that level one more time.  I recall a moment where my girlfriend was playing and she beat a level that she had been stuck on for well over 4 months; when she beat this level finally, she began to tear up and said that she was on the verge of crying because she was so happy.  Tears were almost shed for a puzzle game that rewards her with nothing more than another level and a star rating that tells even though you beat this level, you still did a horrible job (1 star) or you did an OK job (2 stars) or you should have beaten this level a long time ago because that was amazing (3 stars).

What this really says to me overall is that some mobile users may think they’re playing a game because it’s a “time-waster” or it has really fun puzzles, but in the end, what they’re really looking for is that screen that tells you “CONGRATULATIONS, YOU WON.” They then get to move on and anticipate that same screen over and over.  We’ve become a reward-driven gaming community and while that should be a “duh” kind of a statement, it’s really more complex and to me, it seems to be driving down the sophisticated aspect of gaming.  More and more gamers are turning less towards the story of the game and more towards online play and whether or not the game has replay value through its addictive qualities.  Even the guy who swore off Candy Crush, found himself anxiously awaiting his lives to regenerate just so he could keep playing in a newer game from King Games called “Farm Hero Saga.”  It’s quite literally the same concept and mechanics as Candy Crush, but with different art assets, power ups, and a few new reward systems.  I couldn’t believe it when I found myself getting sucked into a phenomenon like this and it drives me insane that I have become addicted to it.

I don’t think we’ll ever be able to escape the addictive qualities of mobile or Facebook gaming.  We’re becoming a community driven by simplicity and immediate reward and so we’re quick to shove a few dollars at a game because we really want to play it.  All I can really say is that the addiction is real and it doesn’t seem like games like Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, or Farm Hero Saga will ever go away.  Simply put, addiction sells.


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