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Candy Crush Saga: What lies behind the candies? A journey through obsession, addiction and loneliness

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What is Candy Crush Saga?

Candy Crush Saga is one of the most downloaded free apps of all time.

Over 50 million people constantly play it on devices, while on the bus, at the metro station, in the queue at the post office or waiting to see the dentist.

Up to 600 million games are played per day. Indeed, Candy Crush Saga has spread like a virus. It is enjoyed by all - without generational boundaries. From children to housewives, managers to university students.

And this is where the revolution lies, in having passionate followers in a public not traditionally known to play videogames and who have almost treated them with hostility, such as women. Yet now housewives and even retirees are typical Candy Crush Saga players.

Candy Crush Saga: what lies behind those colorful candies?

How can this success be explained and especially how Candy Crush Saga has been able to seduce a female audience that, until a few years ago, made fun of men hypnotized in front of a game console?

Certainly, the spread of smartphones and the removal of navigational costs of mobile Internet has facilitated the penetration of video games into all age groups, not only in children but also in adults, which are played, for example, while waiting in a tedious queue as part of everyday life.

But there is something more. The dynamics of the game are basic and inferior to those of many others. It involves overcoming not particularly complex levels by lining up three candies of the same color or vertically or horizontally. Further, Candy Crush Saga does not have outstanding or innovative graphics; rather it’s as elementary and basic as early video games from the 1980's. So why so successful? The secret lies in the psychological factor. This was revealed by the Financial Times, who analyzed the factors behind the Candy Crush phenomenon. The study was then continued by The Guardian who delved more into the Neuroscientific elements in an article titled This is what Candy Crush Saga does to your Brain.

According to the British newspaper, the answer lies with the innocent colorful candies and simple graphics. Behind the bright colors and shapes that evoke our childhoods, there is a deep and targeted psychological and neurological study into the brain and the human soul. The vibrant colors of the candy and the mechanism of the game are based mainly on primary reflexes of input and output, while continually sending stressful neurological stimuli to our brains. Almost like light electric shocks, encouraging us constantly into action. That's why we're so attracted to playing with these candies, and why it is so difficult to stop.

But there's more. The game leverages and mobilizes simultaneously five human emotions: frustration, gratification, curiosity, desire and enjoyment. In particular it stimulates the first two into exhaustion. The secret of the addiction lies in knowing how to expertly stimulate tandem feelings of frustration-gratification. On the one hand, Candy Crush Saga causes players deep frustration when they get stuck at a certain level of the game. On the other, they are rewarded when they finally manage to reach a higher level.

This achievement comes with a powerful injection of adrenaline that brings a sense of relief and satisfaction, and induces, like a drug, to continue. It is clear, from a psychological point of view, that Candy Crush Saga did not invent anything new. The triggering of emotions is the basis of every videogame, as previously discussed in our 'Video games and surroundings, instructions for use'.

However Candy Crush Saga manages to do it better than others, in a more subliminal, using the candy like a battering ram - from the strong and vibrant colors to leverage emotions and deepest and hidden desires, and even awakening those that have laid dormant since the days of childhood.

Candy Crush Saga: dangerous signs of addiction and loneliness

The psychological mechanism is hellish, and without self-control, the risk of dependency is very high. If, in fact, the most common question asked when amongst friends is no longer "how are you?" but rather “what level are you?” or almost physical as well as mental pleasure is felt when colliding square shaped candy with those that are round and crushing them into smithereens, it means that we too are in the vortex.

Friends who often play candy crush admit to have swung from euphoria or depression, depending on the outcome of a game, exactly as found by the Financial Times. When you win, you feel like a genius, if you lose, like a nobody. Its all largely a matter self-esteem.

These are all dangerous signs of addiction. It takes very little indeed to move from a simple and harmless passtime into an obsession, an obsession that even keeps you awake at night. The line is thin, and it can take little to go beyond it. Its like a drug that affects, as we have seen, users of all ages, but particularly women, perhaps more prone and vulnerable to these dynamics of exaggerated stimulation of the latent emotions. Surely loneliness, more and more frequent nowadays in our society, provides a fertile ground for this type of addiction, to which unfortunately no one can escape without strong self-discipline and defenses.

 

 

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