VGT – Candy Crush Saga is Evil

Want to play?  It will only cost you 99 cents....

Want to play? It will only cost you 99 cents….

I kept receiving so many invitations from Facebook friends to play the game Candy Crush Saga that two days ago I finally decided to download it onto my phone.   At first I was enjoying it.  The gameplay was your typical match three puzzle game.  It reminded me of the flash game Around the World in Eighty Days that my mother enjoys playing so much.  There are levels in which you have to remove the jelly (do a match in a square more than once) and there are levels in which you need to drop ingredients down to the bottom.

Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga

This is the point where Candy Crush starts to get devious.  The game is free to play, but relies heavily on a micro economy structure.  In other words, if you want to progress in this game you have one of two options: you can either spend money one dollar at a time or you can send help requests to your friends on Facebook.  While I acknowledge that there is some genius in this design, this is a different system then I have ever experienced with a free game.  For most free games, the free version limits the levels or features.  But if you buy the  game you get all of the features.  However, with candy crush you cannot buy the whole game (at least not that I am aware of).  You can only have it fed to you bit by bit.  Just like with real candy, you can start to get sick of it.

I work at a drug and alcohol treatment center and although I am not a counselor I have heard many times how addiction works.  It starts small and grows until it has taken over your life.  The principle is called the Jellinek Curve.  The image below will be hard to read so you may want to click on the picture to see it better.  Eventually it leads to “hitting rock bottom” and making a conscious commitment to recovery.

The Jellinek Curve

The Jellinek Curve

As I was playing candy crush, I really wanted to progress in the game, so I paid 99 cents to extend the my turns on the current puzzle and get three lollipop hits.  I found out that these extra features quickly dissipated and by the time I was on the next puzzle level I was facing the same situation again.  I received another offer and lure to continue the game by either paying money or irritating people I know and love.

At least for 99 cents I can eat this candy

At least for 99 cents I can eat this candy

I finally had enough.  This morning I uninstalled the game from my phone and I have accepted the fact that I will never learn how the game ends.  I am comfortable with my decision.  How do you feel about games that rely on microtransactions?  Do you have an example of another game that works much the same way that candy crush works?  I am curious to learn more about this system.  Does it really work? Are there other people like me that finally say enough?

VGT – Achievements: Beyond Xbox 360

I am almost over my infatuation with the Microsoft achievement point system.   Almost….

I was pleased to make a discovery that when I play games on my Microsoft Surface RT that I am also linked to the Xbox Achievement point system.  This means that I can increase my gamer score even when I’m not playing my Xbox 360.  I have to say that this is an absolutely brilliant move for Microsoft.  It has become a big and beautiful world for all types of Microsoft gamers.  I have earned all of the available achievment points for Solitaire, Minesweeper, and Mahjong – and I had fun playing them too!

Mahjong - worth 25 achievement points!

Mahjong – worth 25 achievement points!

Microsoft seems to get so many things wrong, but they always seem to make up for it in other areas.  They have certainly come out on top in the battle of the current generation of consoles.  I’m amazed that the 360 came out in 2005 and it still plays games so well.  But Microsoft’s entry into the world of video game consoles was a bumpy one.  The original Xbox was a great product (although HUGE in size!) and it struggled on the global market – especially in Japan.  But somehow Microsoft learned from the original Xbox and adapted the Xbox 360 into a great gaming experience.  It has definitely been my console of choice for the last several months.  I’m currently playing Diablo 3.  It has been a lot of fun to play the game (and get those achievements!)

Perhaps it will be the same way with the Microsoft tablet market.  They actually made a great product with the Microsoft Surface, but yet sales have been sluggish.  They have some pretty good ads out right now and they seem to be playing them during NFL games.  The price has dropped almost half.  I paid just over $600 for my Surface and they are advertising a price of $329 – probably minus the keyboard.  Personally, I find myself going to it more and more.  I love how I can seamlessly use it at my job, write papers on it for school, and play a few games from time to time.  After a short learning curve, I acclimated to the Windows 8 graphical environment.  I find I prefer it over the iPhone/iPad interface and even the droid interface.  The battery life on the Surface RT is also impressive.

Point and Click Adventure Fun!

Adera gives out achievements faster than a PEZ dispenser

I recently bought a game for the Surface.  Adera has turned out to be a fun point and click adventure.  I enjoyed the free first episode so much that I purchased the Collector’s Edition which has all five episodes and strategy guides.  I also earn Xbox gamer points by playing it!  One of the achievements had to do with my “sharing” the game.  I wanted to get the “A Helping Hand” achievement and apparently shared it as a blog entry on my site.

Point and click adventure fun!

Point and click adventure fun!

So how about a little reminder from Scripture about achievements?  This one is a real downer if you are hooked on achievement:

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.  Ecclesiastes 2:11 (ESV) 

According to this great ancient Hebrew writer, even when you earn all of the achievements  – there is only emptiness.  Something is still missing.  Another interesting verse comes from Paul’s second letter to Timothy:

…who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…  2 Timothy 1:9 (ESV) 

The dictionary section at the back of my little Greek New Testament describes the word for work (ergon) as a “work, deed, action”.   I could easily substitute the word “works” with “achievements” in that verse.  In the great scheme of things, it is critical to understand that our achievements don’t really amount to much, but there is something or someone who is far greater.  Someone who knows you will only possess full joy when you set aside your own achievements, and trust his own purpose and grace.

When I read these verses, I realize that I need to set aside my obsession with game achievements and gamer scores.  Of course I will still play games and continue to get that happy little pop-up sound from Microsoft, but I will keep things in perspective.  I’m going to enjoy the game for what it is – not for the achievements I can earn.  I’m going to try to live my life with this perspective too.