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Popular mobile game Candy Crush Saga has been installed more than half a billion times in the year since it launched, and has become one of the most addictive games for mobile phone.

Look around any busy train or bus and it seems every other person with a smartphone or tablet is hooked on Candy Crush Saga, the latest online game to have taken the world by storm.

An astonishing 700 million games of Candy Crush are played every day on mobile devices alone, according to AppData, a leading authority on social media trends. But, unlike so many video games, it appears that instead of teenage boys and men, it’s mostly women who are in thrall to Candy Crush.

And while Candy Crush is free, the in-game purchases that some players choose to make add up. Think Gaming, which releases gaming analytics, estimates that it takes in $875,382 per day. (By comparison, another insanely popular mobile game, Angry Birds, takes in an estimated $6,381 daily.)

The rules of Candy Crush are pretty simple. Players move a variety of brightly colored candies around a grid and line up at least three of the same sweet in a row.

Every time a row is completed, the line explodes, making way for more sweets to drop in.

With more than 400 different stages, each more difficult than the last, and more being added all the time, players never need run out of challenges.

Time examined just what makes Candy Crush Saga so addictive, and they came up with 8 elements of the game that cause players to get hooked:

1. It Makes You Wait: Candy Crush allows you 5 lives at a time to line up the candy icons. Once you run out of lives, you have to wait 30 minutes to continue playing. Or you can pay to get back in the game. Like any good drug, Candy Crush stimulates your dopamine centers, then forces you to “come down” while waiting to play again.

2. It Encourages You: When you get four candies in a row, they zap away in a very satisfying manner. More candies cascade down. At the end, words pop up on your screen, giving you words of encouragement, along with a voice that says “Sweet” or “Delicious.” This positive reinforcement is key to anything addictive.

3. You Can Play While Doing Other Things: The setup of candy crush was designed so players can multitask. That makes it easy to play at all times of the day. It’s perfect for a train ride, a waiting room, or during a meeting. You can play offline as well, so even poor reception won’t prevent you from getting your fix.

4. There’s Always a New Level: the Candy Crush team updates the game constantly and creates new levels every two weeks. Right now there are 544 levels.  And there’s no way to fail at any board. If you run out of options, the board resets. You never get stuck, which may have caused some users to quit out of frustration. The game only ends when you’ve run out of your allotted number of moves, and you can end that frustration by buying your way out.

5. You Don’t Have to Pay, But the Pay Option is Easy: Most people won’t start a new mobile game if it charges you on the outset. The trick is to get people hooked and then asking for money, like a drug dealer that gives you your first “taste” for free. Then when you want to buy something, it’s easy, usually just a click away.

6. It’s Visually Satisfying: Candy invokes a very positive feeling in most people, and there is a lot of color and interesting shapes in a Candy Crush board.

7. It’s Social: Social games have become very popular in recent years. Words with Friends, Draw Something, FarmVille, any game that allows you to connect with your friends through a social-media platform like Facebook, are very addictive. The ability to play with, or compete against, friends is irresistible.

8. It’s an Escape: Like any good drug, Candy Crush allows you to escape from reality and fill empty hours. It allows you to distract yourself from whatever is stressing you out.

Candy Crush seems to have figured out the science behind addiction. Many users report playing for hours on end, neglecting school, work, kids and socializing, not to mention spending money that could be better used elsewhere.

Psychologists say that ‘freemium’ games-games that are free but allow you to pay for certain options- can be an insidious route to more serious gambling problems. If you find that you are neglecting other areas in your life to play games like Candy Crush, you may need to cut back or quit altogether.

If you or a loved one is struggling with gambling addiction and substance abuse, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.

Sources:

http://business.time.com/2013/11/15/candy-crush-saga-the-science-behind-our-addiction/?iid=ent-main-mostpop2
http://www.insidesocialgames.com/2013/04/01/the-top-25-facebook-games-of-april-2013/

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/nov/15/candy-crush-saga-reaches-500m-installs-mobile-facebook

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