Candy Crush: One Addict's Journey

The elevator door opened and out stepped a middle-aged man, a teenage girl and a boy no older than 10. None were related but all shared one trait: a smartphone held inches from their nasal cavities and brows knit in extreme concentration. Had I been standing there wearing nothing but a fig leaf while holding a sign that read, "I SUPPORT PUPPY KILLING!" none would have noticed.

"They must be playing Candy Crush Saga," I reasoned.

I have seen the Candy Crush Saga look not only on my two daughters but also my wife; all three are hopelessly hooked on the number one-downloaded smartphone game that threatens to eliminate what little verbal communication I've been able to muster during the dog days of summer. And yet it was me who, several months ago, harmlessly said, "You guys should download Candy Crush Saga. It's sort of cool."

Yes. And Anthony Weiner is "sort of" disturbed.

If you've never heard of Candy Crush Saga, or simply "Candy Crush" as most addicts call it, stop reading now. I mean it. If you wish to temporarily put your life on hold, know that Candy Crush is a free puzzle app developed by King, makers of social games and destroyers of relationships. Filled with brightly colored "candies," the goal is to make rows of three, four and five candies and do so successfully enough to move on to the next level. Some levels are timed while others require completion in a finite number of moves. Higher levels bring added obstacles like jelly, chocolate, bombs and who knows what else? I'm only on level 97 so I have no idea what the creators have in store for me. My wife has ascended to level 243; her Candy Crush board looks like something on display in a Pentagon briefing room.

Therein lies the problem with Candy Crush. If the game ended after, say, a dozen levels, everybody could proclaim themselves Candy Crush champions and get back to work. (Incidentally, the Wikipedia Candy Crush Saga Web page includes a photo of a woman playing the game at what appears to be her office desk). Instead, the greedy Candy Crush creators have produced 395 levels, ensuring that all players can one-up each other in casual conversation or via social media posts.

"I've been stuck on level 42 for three weeks."

"Really? I breezed through that one at church. But level 103 is impossible."

"Puh-leeeze. I passed 103 while I was on a conference call. Now I'm at 145."

"Well, aren't you special! I'm attending a funeral this weekend. 103 is going down!"

Others seek strategy tips online via Candy Crush message boards with subject lines like, "Level 125 is driving me mad!" "Level 222 SUCKS" and "HELP!" Responses appear to have been penned by a pastry chef/sex therapist.

"Make combos next to cream so it clears jelly."

"Put two striped candies together. Do not play on top. Stay on the bottom."

"Watch this video. That should help!"

The folks at King have tried getting everyone to take a breather by making players wait upwards of 20 minutes if they fail to complete a level after five attempts. Of course, real addicts keep playing by purchasing extra moves, begging Facebook friends for more "lives," (something I will NEVER do) or, as my 11-year-old's friend ingeniously discovered, moving the mobile device's clock forward, thereby tricking the game into thinking the allotted downtime is completed.

Can Candy Crush support groups be far behind?

Hello, I'm 'Steve Stuck on 313.' I pawned my wedding ring so I could buy more lives.

We're here for you, Steve. And you'll be okay. If you can combine a wrapped candy with a color bomb six times.


Like most games, I'm sure Candy Crush will run its course and then fade into obscurity. When was the last time you heard anyone obsessing over Angry Birds? Until then, please send me any tips for beating level 97. I'll do anything.

Even wear a fig leaf.