Crushed To Death By Candy: My Casual Gaming Addiction
Do you play insane amounts of Candy Crush Saga when you should be finishing that TPS report? Do you whip out the iPhone during coffee and/or toilet breaks (I’m not judging if you decide to combine the two – economy of time and whatnot) for a bout of Bejeweled? You may actually be suffering from a psychologically-crippling lack of real-life satisfaction. Don’t take my word for it; these are some real testimonials from real people:
“I play Candy Crush Saga because my real job has long periods of quiet and monotony.”
“iPhone games are fun, there’s not much more to it. No I am not mentally stimulated in any other way, thanks for asking.”
“If I didn’t have Temple Runner I would be the suspect in a string of public transport-related homicides.”
“I have a dependency on these games and that’s a fact, or my name isn’t Benjamin Vernel.”
Okay, so all of those quotes are my own, but the fact stands – social media-integrated games and smartphone-based games are incredibly popular and addiction is a real problem. The casual gaming boom of the 2000-and-teens is not to be scoffed at – casual gaming giant Zynga acquired Draw Something creator OMGPOP for $200 million and has total funding of over $800 million itself, as it hits just about every demographic. From the grandma on her 5 year-old Windows XP desktop to the lawyer on his iPhone 5, everyone plays casual games. And everyone who plays casual games would admit to a less-than-casual amount of time spent playing them.
I won’t shrink from my own transgressions when it comes to game-related procrastination; I’ve missed trams, taken long lunches and skipped classes because I was “busy” playing videogames. But casual gaming is so, well, casual that it somehow avoids the ire of bosses and friends and grandchildren. Come on Nan, we don’t have that much time left together – hurry up and send me that extra life.
A key aspect of addiction is the concept of promising not to partake in your vice of choice and then violating that promise. The dangerous thing with casual games is that there’s no pressure from society not to play them, and specifically not to play them in situations where doing something that similarly disengages you from your peers or work would be frowned upon.
Combine this with the concept of gambling and gaming to replace a lack of intellectual satisfaction in other areas of life, and casual gaming becomes a slippery slope of a time sink that sees you alienating those around you and pushing back deadlines. Or, it would if everyone else wasn’t in the same boat. It’s arguably a symptom of contemporary Western society – there are billion dollar industries built around artful distraction – but if something is so widely accepted without a second thought, is it worth giving a thought or two to our own casual gaming addiction? Just because something is culturally acceptable doesn’t mean it’s morally okay. (See: Two And A Half Men; people preferring The Avengers over The Dark Knight; articles about casual gaming; etc.)
I was about to write a stunningly brilliant conclusion to this piece, but I just got a notification that a friend passed my high score on Bejeweled Blitz and I really need to jump on that. Let me know what you think about this phenomenon/your casual gaming “fix” of choice in the comments below.
[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by quinn.anya]