By By Vietrez P. David-Abella, MD
Sugar Rush
posted 2-May-2015  ·  
875 views  ·   0 comments  ·  
Disclosure: I am in no way connected with King Digital, the London-based developer of the mobile game Candy Crush Saga. Nor, as far as I know, am I related, up to the fourth degree by blood or affinity, to any of its employees, or stockholders - although I was a bit tempted when news of its Initial Public Offering came out a year ago. (Not knowing the ends or tails of stock trading, I was not part of the many who bought shares at $22, and raised close to US $500 million for the company, only to be burned, as of the present time, by declining share prices.)  Nor am I, who is just one of its 97 million players worldwide, addicted to the game, as my children allege - I have not spent a dime buying lives, or special powers, to finish a level.

I used to send life requests to friends via Facebook, or requests to help me move on to the next episode, but ever since I found out that after 3 days, the Tooth Fairy will feel generous and help me pass to the next episode, I have refrained from sending any requests. (So if you have been receiving those pesky requests from me, it may be automatic and program-generated. My sweet apologies!) I pass the 3 days by switching to the parallel night game with Odus the Owl. Lastly, I do not even habitually check the leader board to see who of my friends are among the top 10 scorers. So no, I'm not addicted!

I discovered the game around 2012 on a desktop computer. It was eye-candy, relaxing (referred to as "geriatric cocaine" in one article!) but packing enough sugar punch.  Then I got an iPad (another disclosure: am purely just an Apple product consumer) and that definitely revolutionized my Candy Crush playing habits. When before I had to sit in our computer room, turn on the AVR and CPU, wait for the computer to boot and Microsoft Windows to load, turn on the Internet connection, open Face Book, THEN play Candy Crush, a series of steps that took something like 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how fast the connection was  (which was a window of opportunity for multi-tasking - I'd usually have something to read or write to avoid idle time); with the iPad, I just have to flip open the cover, tap on the Candy Crush icon, and game on!

Candy Crush is a matching game: line up 3 candies in a row and you pop them. Line up 4 and you get the striped one, which like the rook in a chess game, can either go vertically or horizontally, to clear candies. Line up 5 and prepare to unleash some power, with an M&M-studded chocolate cookie that I call the "disco ball," that would pop all the candy of the same color that it is exchanged with. Line up 5 in a cross and you get a wrapped candy, that when matched, pops candies in a 3x3 square.

Goals for each level vary: work for points, pop the jellies, bring down ingredients, or beat the clock, or a combination of these. Challenges also add up: jellies in earlier levels become rock-hard in higher levels, needing more candy explosion to pop. Timed bombs become more frequent. Pop certain numbers of specified colored candies, striped ones, wrapped ones, disco-ball ones. Or produce certain combinations: stripe-and-stripe, stripe-and-wrapped, wrapped-and-wrapped, disco-ball-and-striped. In short, the developers add enough variety to keep the player engaged.

There are several other matching games, but for some reason, these can't match the appeal of Candy Crush (with ONE BILLION games played a day, as King claimed, although this is now under court contention, by some frustrated share holders). For my part, I've decided to stick to this about a year ago, deleting the other games I had kept in my tablet as back-up (that I played when I've run out of CC lives). So what accounts for the appeal?

Is it the deliciously-colored candy, which evokes enough sugar rush to actually curb my sweet tooth? Is it the mesmerizing background music, sound effects, and the soothing, affirming masculine voice that says 'Sweet,' 'Delicious," or "Tasty,' depending on the points generated by a move (perhaps not, since I usually play with sounds and effects muted so as not to give away to people around me that I'm actually sneaking in a game or 2 when I should be really listening to..a lecture)? Or is it because, being a strategy game, it engages my mind enough to remove the background hum, and allows it laser-sharp focus on a problem that it has been grappling with all day or all week?

Whatever its appeal, Candy Crush has saved me from waiting time boredom these past 2 years in plane or bus terminals, in 3-hour Maqueda Channel crossings, and has kept me, the navigator, alert through long, arduous South road trips. It has saved me from many a B-movie, or even an A-movie, but with scratchy sound, blurred images, and shadowed spectators, that my hubby occasionally imposes on me (though I have to be attentive enough to the plot and story line to be able to answer his questions and make character summaries when needed). And it has contained my minute-counting, on those few nights when my pre-menopausic body awakens me at 3 a.m., when I lie awake despite go-to sleep-inducing measures of praying 5 decades of Rosary.

My son once asked me, "What would you do, when you've finished playing all the levels?" That question whammed me almost as hard as other life questions, that I actually had to stop a minute or 2 to reframe my mind. The game developers had been keeping the episodes coming, further enlarging the Candy Crush game board, so this possibility seemed in the realm of impossibility. At the same time, although there have been some levels that I've been stuck at for a few weeks, enough for me to ask, "Is THIS the level that means game over for me?", eventually I'd get the right combination of moves to crush it (so far). So what do I do when I've finished playing all the levels? Then I'm done.

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