I’ve been swamped of late with facebook updates telling me that my friends want me to play Candy Crush Saga. Invites to join them in the game. Requests for lives, requests asking for advice on how to best so-and-so a level. It seems that Candy Crush is everywhere at the moment.
So I tried it, partly to see what the fuss was all about and partly because I wanted to know why a senior exec at an international bank had told me during a round of golf that the game was ruining his life.
For those of you who don’t know what this game is, here’s an image for you:
So I started playing two Mondays ago. Didn’t seem to bad, plenty of tip tapping and plenty of easy screens. I couldn’t see what the big fuss was. I played it on and off and didn’t think it had affected me at all. However, at the end of the week, I reviewed my weekly efforts (as I usually do) and was a little bit concerned at what I found.
My weekly self report usually has a list of the tasks I’ve completed that week, the sessions delivered, the life coaching clients worked with and details of any writing I’d completed that week.
This particular week the report looked like a wasteland. I had never seen it so empty and devoid of, well, anything. I would normally have more activity when I’m on holiday!
The truth dawned on me that the only difference between that week and the previous week was that I’d installed Candy Crush on the phone. Yet I didn’t think I had been lacking activity at all. In fact, if asked I would have said that I’d had an extremely busy week.
Of course, this is why Candy Crush is just so dangerous. You see, apart from being an extreme time robber, it fools you into thinking that you’ve achieved tasks all week through it’s gameplay.
Each level you complete, you achieve a task and a goal with a new task and goal to be achieved set in front of you. You see a map showing you that your progress has moved along. You think you’re achieving something.
You get a set number of lives that refresh every half an hour or you have to buy more. So you think you are ‘earning’ as you go along the road.
You get verbal messages, visual and audio cues telling you that you’ve done well, that you are succeeding and getting somewhere. This tricks your brain into thinking you are doing something.
The reality is that you are doing NOTHING!
Here’s why it is just so bad for you. When we set ourselves a task and complete it we are rewarded with a feel good feeling caused by the drug dopamine being released by our brain. (This is the same sort of rush that recreational drugs users are looking to get without the effort of achieving any tasks). The more tasks you set, the more often you can reward yourself with dopamine hits. The upscale of all of this ‘drug addiction’ is that we achieve a huge number of tasks and are rewarded with a brain functioning at high speed, with a massively positive attitude.
We have achieved a number of real-world tasks that will have helped us in a number of ways. We might have earnt more money, we might have dealt with some pressing problems, we might have undertaken some physical fitness or completed a project. All of which has generated real physical benefits in your life and will therefore have given you a real emotional uplift from the feeling good about ourselves factor for achieving something worthwhile.
When you play Candy Crush Saga you fool your brain into thinking you’ve achieved tasks. You haven’t you’ve achieved nothing in the real world. You’ve spent some of your valuable attention, energy and time on something that is not at all worthwhile. We get a very transitory feel good feeling, although this is soon eliminated by the very real feeling of self loathing that the addiction to something so essentially useless eventually creates.
This is one of the most dangerous and vicious games that I have seen for a long time. To turn this hard working, goal orientated, task achieving dynamo into a slacker within five days is quite an achievement.What I find most insidious and scary is that everyone seems to be playing it. Look at this twitter image about just one level:
This is common place today.
If you have Candy Crush, Bejewelled or any of the other plethora of games that are available for your smart phone or tablet, my advice to you is DELETE them now. You’ll feel so much better for it.
People say to me ‘Oh, but they’re free games’ or ‘what’s the harm?’ I’ll tell you why even the free games are extremely expensive and what the harm is.
A free game that allows you to while away the hours is not free. You are paying with your valuable time and attention. This is time and attention that you could give to something real and worthwhile in your life. Whether it’s work, home or socially related, it has to be a better way of spending your time than tapping away trying to complete a meaningless game. There are games that have some educational and brain developing uses, however, these are few and far between. even these games, if they become addictive are bad for you. Chess is a game where your brain has to work to solve a strategic problem against your opponent, it is not deliberately designed to lure you in and make you waste your days away.
A simple little game that lets you relax is not actually helping you relax at all. It’s isn’t harmless. First of all, you are not relaxed whilst you are playing it as you’re putting yourself at risk of repetitive strain injury, secondly, you’re not actually relaxing, you’re feverishly trying to get past your current level. Thirdly, the game is not simple. It has been designed, like a pavlovian experiment, to make you act in a conditioned manner so that you pay the manufacturer for upgrades, etc. It’s been very cleverly designed and cunningly created so that once you start playing, you can never stop. As you invest more of your time into this, the need to complete levels becomes all consuming and before you know it, months, not weeks have passed in your life and you are still playing this game.
To put it another way, if you played the game for two hours a day for a year, you’ll have spent 30 days in the year just playing the game. When you consider that whilst playing the game, you’re not living in the real world, you are actually wasting a month of your life. If I said, delete Candy Crush and I’ll give you a month longer to live, what would you do?
(To those that say ‘I play it commuting, it isn’t the same’, tell me honestly; do you ONLY play it commuting and is there nothing better you could do with that time?)_
A month of your life every year if you are just playing a silly computer game. It’s 728 hours. If you work out what you earn an hour, you can really see the true cost to your wealth. If you only consider your time to be worth £10 an hour, this game costs you over seven thousand pounds. Is it worth that?
What could you achieve with 728 hours that you’re not achieving now?
See you next time.