Off Topic: Seven Life Lessons Learned From Candy Crush

Update: a reader suggested a transition paragraph for Off Topic posts. Here goes.

Caveat: Today’s subject is not about horses. Occasionally, I think about other things. For more essays on non-equine subjects, see Off Topic. Rodney’s Saga returns to regularly scheduled programming on Friday. For more on the Off Topic blog, see tomorrow’s post, Off Topic: Yay or Nay?.

The search for meaning can be a drag. Philosophical tomes are heavy and require hours to plow through a single page. Vision quests involve deprivation, discomfort, and dieting. Mediation means sitting in quietude for way too long. Why bother? Existential enlightenment is available in a handy electronic format, courtesy of Candy Crush.

If you have had the good fortune to dodge this digital time sink, Candy Crush Saga by King is an downloadable computer game. The player matches three symbols, which then disappear. The board rearranges to reveal more potential matches. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Different combinations of symbols create variety and higher point totals. For further hypnotic effect, the game adds bright colors, shiny shapes, and congratulatory sound effects.

It’s one of those activities that part of me knows is a waste of time even as I do it. This rational, productive part of my mind is drowned out by my screaming inner toddler begging for one more one match, one more round, one more level.

Having sunk far too much time into Candy Crush, here’s what I have gleaned:

1) There is nothing wrong with candy bars and cokes. Occasionally. Aside from a small increase in pattern recognition skills, nothing about Candy Crush Saga will make you physically, materially, nor spiritually richer. That’s okay. Empty calories are not bad in themselves. Life is icing-filled, chocolate raspberry cupcakes from the Gingerbread Construction Company as well as whole wheat bran muffins made at home in a solar oven. The danger comes when Candy Crush keeps me from work [… um … er …]. Put down the iPad. Walk away.

2) If you wish to learn patience, work with something that makes you impatient. When one of the levels is being obstreperous, I inhale slowly and regard it as an opportunity to expand my zen-like calm, rather than a reason to fling the iPad across the room.

3) Take luck as it comes. Luck can run for or against me. The reaction from the last move clears the last obstacle after I had declared defeat. Yay! A game ends when I am one move away from winning. Boo! A bonus piece drops out of the sky just where I need it.Yay! A square of chocolate grows over a bonus piece. (In Candy Crush, chocolate is evil.) Boo! As human beings, we feel the boos more deeply than the yays. I try to note when good things happen. I’m not weighing-in on whether or not good and bad luck balance out karmically. Just that if I am going to bitch about bad luck, I should pause to consider when the candies fall my way.

4) It’s not luck versus skill. It’s luck and skill. I’ve been drawn into the Candy Crush vortex before. I arrived at a certain point, got fed up, and deleted the game. On this iteration, I am getting consistently higher scores and have blown past the level that stumped me last time. Clearly, there is a learned skill involved. Luck still plays a major role. I continue to lose lives on a regular basis. All the skill in the world won’t help if the candies aren’t cooperating. However, luck doesn’t do any good if I’m not ready to capitalize on a fortuitous arrangement of candies.

5) All in the asking. Candy Crush Saga is known as a freemium. The original game is free. However, extra moves, extra bonus candies, and extra lives, are available for a price. Just click here. I’m not automatically cheap. I tip waitrons. I buy books to support artists. I’m not above paying for my entertainment. If the designers asked politely, I’d pay. What I hate is the sense that the game is rigged to slyly run up a staggering bill by repeatedly asking for reasonable-seeming amounts. I object to the feeling that they are trying to suck me dry 99c at a time. I have disabled in-app purchases and will delete the damn thing before I knowingly give them a penny.

6) Eyes on the goal. Candies can combine to create bonus candies that clear other pieces and rack up points. Each bonus candy behaves differently. “Striped” candies are the easiest and can clear a row or a column. “Wrapped” candies clear a space around them. “Spotted” candies are the rarest and can clear large sections of the board. However, only striped candies reach across a gap to zap other pieces. On some of the Candy Crush levels, I have to concentrate on getting these easier, striped candies to clear the board. I must ignore the chance to make the other, more difficult bonus candies. They can’t do what I want and therefore waste moves. It is hard to turn away from what I have been trained to see as a highly desirable thing.

7) Find value in every experience. Even if that means just getting a blog post out of it.

2 thoughts on “Off Topic: Seven Life Lessons Learned From Candy Crush

  1. I’m totally with you on point 5. I will buy a game if I want to pay for a game. I will not buy bits for a game that was supposed to be free.

    I have also learned 8) Know when to ask for help. My husband is a Candy Crusher extraordinaire and if a level is driving me too far beyond the point of seeing any fun in the game ever again I just hand it over to him, knowing that he can get me past it. That said, he readily acknowledges point 4 which always makes me feel better, implying that he just got lucky making those 25 spotty ones in his opening moves 😉

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