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.
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.
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.
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?