In this month’s edition of blink and you missed it news, did you catch that the company which makes Candy Crush was recently sold for $5.9 billion?
Which is about 45 billion in actual candies, give or take a few jelly beans.
It’s a lot of money to pay for what is basically a glorified version of connect four.
Candy Crush also currently has over 500 million users worldwide. That’s roughly one out of every twelve people on planet earth, and over the last twelve months, the company that invented it pulled in over three billion in revenue.
So why pay so much for a bunch of colored candies that aren’t even real? And why would anyone pay so much for it? Because we’re all addicted to it, that’s why.
Candy Crush hits the same pleasure centres in the brain as poker machines, heroin and real sugar.
Shoving a needle into your arm, or all your money into a no-armed bandit is nowhere near as bad as filling your time on the train by connecting and exploding little sweets. It is, however, still an addiction, and is definitely not going to make you happy.
Surely people must be enjoying Candy Crush though, because otherwise, they wouldn’t be playing it? Right?
As with most addictions, Candy Crush severely messes with your ability to make a rational choice. Same as a poker machine, it’s been designed to provide just enough satisfaction to keep you coming back, but not enough that you’re ever satisfied.
The exact same theory applies to the matches provided by dating websites, late night kebabs and Adam Sandler movies.
When he initially appeared, we all thought he was funny and even entertaining. Now we expect to be disappointed but have this weird compulsion to keep going back, even though after each new film, we’re left with a listless, empty feeling and deep, deep sadness.
Maybe you don’t watch his movies anymore? Good on you. However, someone does, that’s why they keep making them. Same reason Candy Crush makes so much money. Someone’s playing.
Games that distract us from more meaningful pursuits are nothing new. Board games, sudokus, crosswords and card games all perform similar mind manipulation. The problem is that new games like Candy Crush hit those pleasure centres more accurately and often than ever before, maximising joy, but minimising effort and the duration of that joy.
As a result you’re hooked faster and back more often – it’s electronic ice wrapped in a smartphone.
It’s all so easy too. Swipe, click and away you go, and that’s the other big trick.
Improving yourself as a person and lifting your overall level of happiness takes work. In the form of extended periods of thought and concentration, and the end result is always more happiness.
It’s a choice you make every time you pick up your smartphone to fill in time.
Do you go for the poke of pleasure, ding of distinction, or vibration of verification?
Or do you put down your phone and do something meaningful?
In the moment that you’re picking up that phone, it does feel good. In those more reflective moments thought, where you’re thinking about your life and what you’re doing with it, you will realise that you’re wasting it away and for what?
A few colorful sweets that don’t even have the decency to be real.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.