For the second straight week, I feel like a zombie from The Walking Dead. The other times I was this tired I was writing my thesis for grad school, pulling all-nighters as an undergrad to study for finals, or binge watching the latest craze in excellent TV that I couldn’t go to bed until I finished…one…more…episode…ok the season.
Although I referenced The Walking Dead, I can’t watch that show. The moment the first zombie girl came across the screen less than 10 minutes into Episode 1 of Season 1, I hit “stop” on my Wii remote and removed the series from my Netflix instant stream queue. I don’t know why I thought I could handle the show. Movies and shows with the dead people coming back to life, ghosts and spirits lead to sleepless nights. I’m more of a Scandal, Mad Men, Law & Order: SVU and when they were still airing Lost, Dexter and Breaking Bad type of gal. I was a late comer to each shows but caught up thanks to On Demand, Netflix and good old-fashioned DVD box sets. Still to tackle are Orange is the New Black, True Blood and Game of Thrones.
My latest marathon all-nighters are neither academics nor awesome-scripted-television based. The culprit is Candy Crush Saga. My interest in electronic games waned years ago. I remember having sore thumbs from playing Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo and later Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis. I bought a Wii mainly because I wanted to instant stream Netflix on my flatscreen TV instead of waiting for discs in the mail. I’m not a fan of watching on my laptop, tablet or phone unless I’m traveling. I told myself I’d play the included tennis, bowling and other sports games as a way to complement my other workout routines, but they and the Michael Jackson dance game I got when I purchased the Wii remain untouched nearly three years later.
Every day I see people on the subway playing Candy Crush on their phones and iPads. I watch the flurry of color and points earned for a few seconds then return to my book or magazine. I noticed people’s Facebook statuses being about levels achieved in the game. I ignored or declined two or three invitations to play, just as I had ignored invitations to play FarmVille, the rage before it. After a cousin sent a mass text–she claims accidentally–that included at least 10 of us, asking for tips on beating a level in Candy Crush, my interest was picqued but not enough to start playing. After I teased her about it, she sent an invitation for me to play on Facebook. I ignored it.
I was scrolling through my phone’s apps to see what I had. On the last page, I saw “Words with Friends,” which I had abandoned months before. I gave in and accepted the numerous invitations to play because I remembered how much fun I had playing Scrabble when I was younger. When I opened Words With Friends I was greeted with the message that I had lost my 10-plus running games due to inactivity. Some opponents and I had multiple rounds going. When they took too long to play, I requested to be matched with a stranger. Words with Friends took a back seat as I became consumed by my final semester of grad school and late hours at work. I felt foolish requesting rematches after my forfeits. I remembered the Candy Crush invitation.
I didn’t want to be one of those players whose status is posted on Facebook. I knew I could change the settings but didn’t want to be bothered with all that. I checked the Google app store. To my delight Candy Crush is a free game. I was sitting on my couch after a long day at work. Dinner was cooking on the stove and the TV was replaying a taped show. I nearly burnt dinner and had to replay the show.
After the tutorial and practice games I was sucked into the beautiful pink, orange, blue and green world of Candy Town. I was pleased every time my faceless avatar chugged along the trail to the next level, as happy as the giggling girl who appears after a level is cleared. I was obsessed with vertically or horizontally lining up at least three of what I assume are yellow lemon drops, blue jaw breakers, red jelly beans, green Chiclets, and purple raspberry gummy -looking things. Certain lineups lead to striped or wrapped candy, or rainbow candy that zaps other candies, or for little gummy fish to come through and clear more candy, leading to a high score. It was all I could do to not throw my phone when I used my five lives and had to wait up to a half hour to earn more lives to continue playing. The tearful heart candy properly conveyed how I felt. I refuse to pay for apps or purchase new lives, even if they are only 99 cents each.
Ads for other games pop up in between rounds and levels. None interested me until an ad for Pet Rescue Saga from King, the makers of Candy Crush, flashed across my screen. It was the perfect solution to killing time while waiting for my Candy Crush lives to re-up. Pet Rescue took less than five minutes to install on my Droid. In no time I was crushing red, purple, blue and yellow cubes to rescue these poor dogs, rabbits, birds, squirrels and another animal that I have yet to figure out. By the time I run out of lives on Pet Rescue I toggle back to Candy Crush. It’s agony when I’m waiting for both games to renew lives, especially when I have to wait until the next day. So I downloaded Word Search, a free word puzzle.
Candy Crush has interrupted my evening routine of writing in my journal, drafting blog entries and reading, all things I look forward to to unwind after work. I DVR a lot of shows and usually zip through by fast fowarding through opening credits, slow or boring scenes and commercials as I read or write. Now that I’m preoccupied with removing all the clear jelly squares in Candy Crush, I’m going through less journal pages and the batteries in the remote control will last a tad bit longer.
Idle moments on the subway or at the hair salon once occupied by reading have also been replaced by these color coded games. Emboldened by my new skill, I tried to attack Tetris, again, but was pathetically unsuccessful. The urge to play Candy Crush has overtaken me at work. I hunch over my desk to open it. A person walking by may think I’m sending or receiving a text message like other normal, grown adults. I don’t feel guilty. I know co-workers who play the word game Ruzzle at their desks. The amount of bragging I’ve heard pertaining to that game prompted me to check it out. My practice scores were too low so I bowed out. I didn’t want my sixteen year old goddaughter to put me on blast as she did other adults at family gatherings.
I’m on Level 23 in Candy Crush. I hear it goes up to 200. I don’t know when I’ll encounter the “evil chocolate.” I started Pet Rescue days later but am on Level 27. Judging by the as yet unconquered levels, it may stretch into the 200-level range as well. Despite my lack of sleep, I’m not so bad as to seek help from other, buying more lives or looking up tips on the internet–yet–when I have trouble clearing a level. I don’t know far I’ll advance or if the novelty will wear off altogether. Either way, I look forward to resuming a normal Candy and Pet free or limited life.