Yes… I admit it (with all appropriate shame). I am currently “hooked” on a child’s game, Candy Crush Saga, and loving every minute of it. The game is easily downloaded from the always open app store onto devices I can use anywhere. For those of you lucky enough not to know, the Candy Crush Saga is a series of puzzles of increasing difficulty, visually engaging and stimulating enough to keep an adult interested.
Again, yes, I AM ashamed I know that.
But here’s the kicker… once you play (and lose) enough, the game shuts you off. You must wait (an amount of time determined by the frequency of your game play) to earn more “lives” to keep on playing.
People can give you lives only if you choose to advertise your newest passion (failing) to your Facebook friends. It’s called social game playing, otherwise you’re on your own. Denying that need to play the game is a most powerful lure — brilliant actually.
The Candy Crush people, as you might expect, have made “buying” more lives rather simple. A click, a password and you’re good to go. It’s so easy, the amount of money so small, a player could quickly lose track of what they’ve spent.
An interesting and shameful note, after giving in and “buying” lives I found my skills improved almost… miraculously in the game. Subtle but effective. Almost like a reward for my purchase… or is that suspicion run wild?
It’s no surprise that there’s probably a whole lot of theory behind the design of games (this one and others). There’s good money to be made after all, and for some game design has become less about the game, and all about the business. The developers know well our very human need for engagement and challenge, how we love our technology and our notoriously shrinking attention spans and it may well motivate the creation of some of them.
Make it pretty. Keep it interesting. Play (pun intended) to our weaknesses.
Unfortunately knowing you’re being “played” doesn’t protect you from falling victim to cute sound effects, exploding candy and the dubious achievement of attaining the next level. Heaven help us all.