I have one of the old Nintendo DS consoles, the hand held ones that predate the 3DS model. I’ve only ever really played two games on it – FIFA08 and FIFA11. I’d upgrade again if they still made it for the DS, but they don’t. I know that I’ve been playing these two games for about seven years; I recall playing on a train back from Hull when I worked with CABE. I enjoy it because I understand the principles of football, so only had to master the controls and it offers a mild challenge in little chunks of four or five minutes. I had two or three games tonight whilst I watched the kids go the sleep. I don’t think I’m ever going to get bored of playing it.
I feel the same about Candy Crush Saga, the maddeningly addictive game that thousands of commuters in London seem to be playing during every trip they make. For the uninitiated – catch up, grandad – it involves moving little coloured sweets into lines to achieve an objective like delivering ingredients, getting rid of jelly or achieving a score in a certain amount of moves. Complete a game and you move to the next level, where a slightly different challenge awaits; play long enough and you start to experience new obstacles – like sweet bombs and the maddening chocolate and gather treats like the colour bomb and the lollipop hammer.
Like my Nintendo, there is an beautiful simplicity to Candy Crush, which clearly resonates with thousands of other people too. It’s easy to play and it’s non-discrimatory. You see progress. Even when a level is hard to escape, there’s always the feeling that it can be conquered. It’s just the perfect combination of skill, luck and judgement in short games with decent rewards; it’s easy to learn and it provides water cooler conversation.
Or so I thought. In the wake of Stuart Heritage’s article in The Guardian earlier this week, and after what seems like an eternity trying to crack level 147 (which I eventually did), I now find myself – for the first time – fighting a level that I don’t think I can get past. Level 149 is a devious combination of jelly, chocolate and the search for the most elusive sweet combination, the double wrapped. Worse of all, it’s a level where you can see very early on if you’re not going to make it, but it makes you play on in pain and desperation. Games can be over in this way very quickly. I’ve been toiling all week without even getting close.
And before, I was optimistic and I’d persevere. I thought that there was some skill and judgement and it was worthwhile. But now, it’s driving me crazy, I appreciate that – actually – it’s all about luck and the configuration of your opening board; it’s turning me off and I’ve realised that I’m not gaining any worthwhile skills and not benefiting from any of the enjoyment I thought I was getting before. I’ve realised that rather than being all cerebral, with it and cool, arranging little sweets in every waking moment – and getting annoyed about it – is a little bit twattish.
I think my time with Candy Crush is over.