By: John Jericiau
I’m going to warn you right now: don’t try this game. My saga started the day I ignored this sage advice from close friends. In a moment of wanting some junk food for my brain, I clicked on the colorful app that had been calling my name from the display of my iPhone 5. Life has not been the same since. It’s been two weeks of living hell.
My husband has been bringing his iPad to bed every night, staring at the brightly lit screen in an otherwise dimly lit bedroom. As I tried to fall asleep I couldn’t help notice his blank stare into the screen, with an occasional swipe of his index finger followed by a burst of multicolor fireworks. I refused to look any closer, however. My life is so incredibly full and I have no time for another recreation. Plus, my fingers are really really tired by the time we crawl into bed around 10pm.
He and our surrogate/friend would have occasional conversations about saving each other or hitting a tough level or desperately needing a life, but I would show no interest in the conversation nor ask for any explanations. My top talk topics these days are more like back-to-school shopping, five-year old bedwetters, and tonsillectomies. My mother-in-law, who is barely computer savvy, jumped on the bandwagon, as did her sister and her sister’s daughter-in-law. I would get an errant posting on my Facebook newsfeed about how one of them reached a certain level in the game, but I had no idea that Facebook was to blame for this nationwide addiction.
For those two or three of you out there who don’t know about Candy Crush Saga, this game is a variation of match-three games such as Bejeweled. Each level has a game board filled with differently colored candies, and might contain obstacles. The basic move of this game is horizontally or vertically swapping the positions of two adjacent candies, to create sets of three (or more) candies of the same color. It was released over a year ago for Facebook, and then released for smartphones on November 14th, 2012, just three days after our youngest son was born. Maybe that’s why I personally never got the memo, but certainly plenty of people did. As of March 2013, this game became the most popular one on Facebook (sorry, Farmville), with an astounding 45.6 million average monthly addicts – I mean users.
In contrast, there are roughly 1.2 million crack addicts in the USA, but that’s where the differences end. Just like crack, Candy Crush Saga is so addictive that it sinks its poisonous teeth into your cerebrum after the first use.
Addiction specialists describe the effects of crack in this way:
Addiction hits hard and fast, usually acting on the brain within eight seconds of the time it’s used. However, the length of a high is relatively short, lasting under 10 minutes in most cases. With even one use, it can become incredibly physically addictive, largely due to its intense effect on one of the brain’s vital chemical messengers called dopamine. This rush of dopamine causes users to immediately feel happy and high and then depressed and restless, causing many users to immediately re-dose. This cycle can continue for days, leaving users feeling simultaneously exhausted and wired.
Crack is the poor man’s cocaine; Candy Crush Saga is even more available. It costs nothing out of your pocket (the app is free), unless you get so desperate that you want to prolong your high by paying $0.99 for just one more hit even after you failed to progress to the next level. Embarrassing to admit, but one late night I paid $4.95 (through my iTunes account) because I got so close to completing a level that I was sure I would find success with one more try.
So after two weeks I must bid adieu to this pitiful pastime. No more cries for help from all my Facebook friends that need lives to keep them playing the game. No more draining my iTunes reserves. No more sneaking into the bathroom so I can get in another game without being disturbed. No more constantly checking my watch because I was notified by the game god that I had to wait 12:33 until I was allowed to resume playing. My three boys need me. My husband wants me. But recovery is a life long process. I think – no, I KNOW I can do it. I just need to take it one day at a time.