Candy Crush Saga

I usually try to play all the games, that people talk about. The big AAA hits, the small indie gems, the hugely popular games for handheld devices and anything in between. I do this out of a mix of professional interest and my eternal personal curiosity. I have much to learn about games, and playing as many games as possible is one way to further my insight. Therefore it’s a bit odd, that I, without making any particularly conscious decision, haven’t paid much attention to the biggest free-2-play games recently. Games such as Clash of Clans, Hay Day and Candy Crush Saga (though I have played a fair amount of Subway Surfers). Regarding Candy Crush, the situation has changed recently.

The frustration embedded in that tweet is a nod to the amount of time, a game like this can easily consume. I don’t believe games are “addictive” the same way cocaine is addictive (this is not to say, that games can’t be part of, let’s say, “addictive-like issues”, but it’s a complicated matter, that I might talk about in another context. Not now). I also don’t think “addictive” is anything to strive for as game designers. BUT a game like CCS, it’ll devour hour upon hour.

Many people seem to experience this:

First impression? Yeah, as everybody has pointed out by now, the people at King has certainly played Popcap’s Bejeweled:

At the same time, CCS adds many new mechanics & challenges to the mix, and there’s a nice variation from level to level. Score a certain amount of points (sometimes within a certain time frame), clear some (increasingly tough) gel, move “ingredients” to the bottom of the screen, combinations of these etc.

Without knowing Bejeweled in detail, I definitely don’t see CCS as a rip-off. It’s clearly inspired, but that’s the case with any game.

Is it a deeply rewarding experience?

No, I don’t think so.

That, however, does not mean it isn’t satisfying to play. It very clearly appeals to the human fondness of identifying patterns, as described by Raph Koster:

Games are puzzles. they are about cognition and learning to analyze patterns. When youโ€™re playing a game, youโ€™ll only play it until you master the pattern. Once youโ€™ve mastered it, the game becomes boring.

All the crazy visual & auditory feedback also adds to the pleasant feeling of accomplishment (though you can certainly argue, that the feedback doesn’t always feel meaningful or proportionate):

These elements make up a game, that brilliantly captures my attention, and even though it’s perfect for brief playing sessions, I often play for as long as I can with the lives I have.

candycrush_iapBeing a free-2-play game, it, unsurprisingly, makes numerous attempts to make me buy stuff (in-app purchases, IAP). I can buy “boosters” that helps me blow up the candy, and when I run out of lives, I can pay to continue playing. If I don’t, I’ll have to wait. Now, I don’t have any qualms with free-2-play as such. I don’t think it’s evil or unethical or that it’s killing gaming. It can be done in good ways, it can be done in bad ways.

But, as I suddenly remind myself, this is not an essay on free-2-play. I don’t think I’ll ever write any such thing. Other people are already doing that, and that much better than me.

Suffice it to say, that so far, I haven’t felt the urge to pay anything, yet I’m having a good time. This stance might be a self-induced challenge – how far can I get on the cheap? I have a feeling, that as levels are getting harder, it probably becomes increasingly difficult to maintain my approach (though this piece suggests, that “70% of the people on the last level haven’t paid anything”)

You get obvious advantages from paying, as the game becomes easier and playable for longer stretches of time, but the game is perfectly enjoyable without them.

Summing up, this video is not entirely fair, but it’s also funny, so I guess it all evens out: