I’m not going to lie, I’ve played Candy Crush. However, it is not installed on any of my devices and it’s not a game I particularly enjoy, yet everyone seemingly does and I just don’t get it.
A friend once told me that “life is too short to play games that frustrate you,” and he was absolutely right. But there is a difference between frustrating and challenging. A challenging game is one that is difficult yet you still feel like you have the skills to overcome the problem. Ideally this is where you want most games to sit. Not crazy hard but not easy. You should have a sense of accomplishment every time you overcome a challenge (or level). You should continue feeling like you’ve gotten better at the game and that learned knowledge is something you can take with you as you progress towards the end.
A frustrating game is almost the exact opposite. Frustration happens when you feel that you have no control over the outcome of a certain challenge. Maybe you try different methods and never get anywhere. Or maybe there are too many variables that you can’t organize. Frustration happens when you feel that nothing but sheer luck and random chance lets you move ahead. Ultimately, a frustrating game doesn’t make you any better of a player. Nothing you learn (if you learn anything) helps you be better in later levels.
Candy Crush is a frustrating game
My wife has been playing Candy Crush for what seems like forever. She’s on some ungodly high level and all I hear every night is “this level is too hard” or “this is stupid.” When a game pisses you off that much on a frequent basis, it’s time for a new game. Yet she continues to play and often asks me to play to help her pass a level. I always give it a try and always leave feeling incredibly frustrated wondering why she continues to play.
Every time I play Candy Crush I feel like I have zero control over what happens next. I make some matches and things fall from the sky…this is normal and on par with other matching games, but for some reason Candy Crush makes that simple reward meaningless. Candy Crush feels a lot like a slot machine. I pull the handle and just wait for things to match up. If they do, great, I get a little reward; if not, too bad, game over. Yet there’s no skill involved in playing slots, it’s just random luck and that rarely makes for an enjoyable, engaging game.
Unlike a great puzzle game like Tetris, Candy Crush isn’t about a high score or how long you can keep playing, it’s about clearing a level. Get rid of all the candy gel (or chocolate, or whatever) and you move on to the next infuriating puzzle. And unlike other matching games like Puzzle Quest, your matches and luck doesn’t benefit you later in the game. Your ability to overcome a challenge in Tetris or Puzzle Quest is entirely up to you. When you fail, you feel like it was your fault and you know you can do better next time. Candy Crush doesn’t give you this at all. When you fail at Candy Crush you just feel like you had bad luck, so you just pull the handle and hope the next time things line up better. You didn’t fail because you suck at Candy Crush, you failed because you had bad luck. Why is this fun?
Thankfully for me, my wife hasn’t spend a dime on Candy Crush and this is a fact she prides herself on, which I find is another interesting aspect of Candy Crush and maybe it’s only bit of silver lining. Apparently, people feel like if they just try again and again and wait long enough, that they’ll pass the level and won’t need to spend a dollar or more. While I appreciate the fact that you can win at Candy Crush without spending money, I find it interesting that it’s a badge of honor, more so for Candy Crush than other casual games I’ve seen.
But in the end, I’m clearly the minority because Candy Crush has millions of people playing and if even a fraction of them spend a couple bucks, that means a boat load of cash for the developers. Good for them, I’m jealous of their ability to bathe in money like Scrooge McDuck. Of course, this all (once again) proves that you don’t need quality to be popular or make a profit. People will put up with a lot of crap…I do too…but at least when I step in crap, I try to glean some knowledge so I can avoid it again in the future. And that means I’ll avoid Candy Crush 2 whenever it gets here.