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Whenever you use public transport, take a walk in the park or step out of your home, in general, you will likely stumble upon at least a handful of people with their noses deep in their smartphone screens. Some of them are browsing social media, others are texting or chatting online, and there are many who match pieces of colourful virtual sugar in a game like Candy Crush or one of its popular copycats. Candy Crush is one of the most popular casual games ever invented: this seemingly innocent title has hundreds of millions of users and has made billions in revenue for its publisher, King.com, owned by Activision Blizzard. Candy Crush is a game that’s simple, almost trivial (at first), yet it managed to become the one most downloaded mobile game of all time.
What makes casual games such a hit with the masses, and what makes us return to them over and over again, even after we swear never to touch them in our lives?
Back in the mid-1990s, a bunch of developers combined their game building expertise, a freshly invented secure online money transfer method, and a hunger for money – they built the first online casinos. And with this, they have created monsters. You see, this move that was a vital one for the future of online slots, one of the most beloved/hated hypercasual game ever invented – on one hand, they are a very popular pastime for a massive number of players (gamblers and casual players alike), on the other, they are seen as the most addictive boredom killer ever invented. And modern casual games like Candy Crush have taken quite a few pages from the slot machine playbook to become more popular – and more addictive.
Most people don’t play games to have fun – they play games to complete them. Our brain doesn’t like to leave any task incomplete – this is why we finish watching that show or read the book cover to cover even if we don’t enjoy it. And games like Candy Crush flood us with an endless stream of tasks to complete. Plus, it is almost as random as a slot machine – there is no way of knowing what candy will fall next, making the game unpredictable enough to keep it exciting. This randomness and a constant string of tasks make our brain fall in love with Candy Crush, and ultimately, get addicted to it.
While this addiction doesn’t cause any physical harm, like tobacco and alcohol, it does have a negative effect on our lives: it encourages procrastination, and it reduces productivity. And if you grow bored of one, there is always another to try: aside from the dozen similar games offered by King.com itself, there are many copycats to satisfy your craving for some casual – and addictive – matching.