IN the universe I inhabit before I go to sleep every night, I am already in 2014. To be exact, Jan 18, 2014, as of last night.
That’s because I am a Candy Crush cheat.
For those who’ve been living under a rock, Candy Crush Saga is a massively popular online game. I started playing it on my iPad in May and there has been no turning back.
In the game, you are given five “lives” to match-and-smash candy. If you want to continue playing once you use up these lives, you must either pay or get lives from Facebook friends. Or, you wait half an hour for a life to regenerate.
Because I don’t play it on Facebook and don’t like spending on games, I found myself staring at the screen in frustration every time I got locked out.
Googling Candy Crush, I discovered that I could actually get “lives” without waiting. All I had to do was set the clock on my iPad ahead by two hours.
Sometimes, though, the clock goes haywire and I’d still be locked out.
I then discovered an easier option to get as many lives as I want – setting the clock ahead by days instead of hours.
And so I have progressed through the months to reach January 2014.
But I really should stop.
Ever since I discovered the time cheat option, what started as an enjoyable hobby has turned me into a grumpy, anti-social, sleep-deprived monster.
I’d rather play Candy Crush than talk to my husband. I’d rather play Candy Crush than go to sleep. Even when I’m sleepy, I feel compelled to play on because I am desperate to get to the next level.
And because I’ve discovered the trick to getting unlimited lives, I can play on forever.
When I finally force myself to put my iPad down, my brain reels with images of coloured jelly beans.
Candy Crush is easy to understand, which explains why many fans are middle-aged like me (kids abandoned it once they discovered their parents playing it; I once walked past a man who looked to be in his 70s and he was updating his family on his Candy Crush level).
The game revolves around harmless images of sweets, doughnuts, lollipop hammers and slabs of chocolate. It’s like entering Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree (yup, another giveaway of my age) and encountering Pop Cakes and Google Buns.
The sound effects mimic that of pachinko machines. Your game is accompanied by tinkly tunes, the whoosh of candy disappearing, the clatter of hard-boiled sweets and a macho voice intoning “divine” and “delicious” when you make a good move. It’s almost hypnotic.
Who can resist all that?
It’s not even that I’m good at it.
After so many months playing it every night before I go to bed and during the day as well on weekends, I’m only at measly level 133 (there are currently 470 levels).
At an average of one hour a weekday and two on weekends, I’ve devoted about 180 hours to Candy Crush so far, or nearly eight days of my life. I’m also a little poorer because I’ve had no choice but to pay to gain entry to new levels.
I’ve never been a fan of games. The only other online game I was keen on was the wordgame Scramble, but that at least was educational. I learnt new words.
Candy Crush, on the other hand, is utterly meaningless.
What skills has it taught me beyond the ability to spot blobs of different colours on a computer screen more quickly?
H, who tired of the game after a few weeks, says that if I were to stop and think before I make a move, I might pick up some strategising skills.
But I tell him that the fun is in rushing through each level at breakneck speed.
Problem is, Candy Crush is no longer that fun any more, not when I’m losing sleep because of it.
I really should kill the game and get on with my life, but I can’t bear to destroy the 180 hours I’ve spent on it.
The addiction I feel for the game extends to my iPad.
On weekends, the tablet is with me wherever I go. If I’m not playing Candy Crush on it, I’ll be Googling and mostly for mindless stuff like YouTube videos, celebrity news and Instagram photos.
My general knowledge of trivia is certainly high, but I wonder if all this non-stop digital activity and constant consumption of varied morsels of information is actually helping my brain.
With technology, all sorts of information is available at my fingertips. But I don’t have any real or deep knowledge about things I read on the Internet. And because there is so much material available, my ability to focus has also dwindled.
Imagine the number of proper books I could have savoured and absorbed in those 180 hours I spent on Candy Crush, not to mention the many more hours of aimless Googling. Or the beauty sleep I could have gotten.
H, too, is always on his iPad, in his case playing real time online chess. It’s reached a point where we spend our weekends physically together but plugged into different worlds. Surely that can’t be healthy?
Last Sunday, I decided that we’d take a one-hour break from our iPads. So, from 8pm till 9pm, we could do anything except use the tablets.
We decided to just talk. It wasn’t easy. I had to resist the urge to get the iPad out to check on something we were discussing, like what time the US Open was taking place or where to shop when we head to Bangkok this weekend.
I had to force myself to stay focused on the moment, and to curb my impatience at not getting the answers I wanted at once.
Technology is a wonderful thing but unless I learn to regulate my use of it, I will become a slave to the gadgets I have, as I already am.
I realised I had reached breaking point later that Sunday night when I fought sleep just to play Candy Crush.
It was past midnight, I had to go to work in a few hours, I was desperately sleepy and knew I was behaving stupidly, but there I was willing myself to stay awake so I could smash a few more candies on a screen. Yes, I couldn’t bear to kill the game that was killing me.
If you have overcome your Candy Crush addiction, pray share how you did it.
I need help. — The Sunday Times/Asia News Network
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