“在拥挤的地铁或巴士上环绕四周，你会看到许多人都在自己的智能手机或平板电脑上玩着《Candy Crush Saga》，这款横扫世界的新进在线游戏。基于闪耀的灯光，催眠的音乐以及有趣的音效，它已经吸引了数百万玩家的注意——就像2010年的《愤怒的小鸟》那样（甚至连英国首相卡梅伦也是这款游戏的粉丝），它已经创造了一个在线游戏神话。根据AppData数据，每天玩家单在手机设备上玩《Candy Crush》的次数就达到了7亿次，可以说这款游戏主导着社交媒体的趋势。但与许多电子游戏不同的是，它的目标群体并不是青少年或男性玩家，反而女性玩家更着迷于《Candy Crush》。根据游戏创造者King.com，25至55岁的女性是游戏最忠实的目标群体。根据ThinkGaming报道，《Candy Crush》平均一天能为King赚得40万英镑。如此算来1.46亿英镑的年收益足以让英国公平交易局制止该公司对于年轻用户的剥削。但是King却宣称他们90%的玩家年龄是大于21岁，但成熟并未阻止女性玩家掉进《Candy Crush》魅力中。
我接受了一位新闻记者（《Jill Foster》这篇文章的作者）的访问，她想要知道为什么这会是一款”让人上瘾的“游戏以及为何有这么多女性沉迷于其中。我告诉她《Candy Crush》是一款性别中立的游戏，并带有“让人吃了还想吃”的特性（就像巧克力一样），它能够灵活地渗透到女性玩家每日生活中。游戏之所以会占据所有玩家的认知能力是因为任何开始游戏的玩家都必须将注意力完全放在游戏中。如此玩家会有几分钟的时间完全忘记身边的一切事物。我想这便是吸引许多女性玩家的部分原因，不管她们是经常待在家里的全职妈妈（会在照顾孩子的间隙玩10分钟游戏）还是会在上下班路上玩游戏的商务专员。它真的既简单又有趣。我同时还注意到与许多在线游戏不同的是，《Candy Crush》并未包含打打杀杀的机制，它并未突出强大的男性角色或性感的女性角色。我想在阅读这篇文章的你们可能也玩过《Candy Crush》了，而《每日邮报》更是给予了它贴切的描述：
基于典型的小报风格，《每日邮报》采访了许多女性，希望以此去证实《Candy Crush》的‘成瘾性’。例如来自Kent Ashfor的的一位44岁公司主管Lucy Berkley便描述了自己是如何带着背痛在周一早上走进办公室。所有同事都注意到了她的不适。而引起她的背痛的主要原因便是她在周末用iPad连续玩了10个小时的《Candy Crush》。她表示“我根本停不下来，它太让人上瘾了。神奇的是房间的所有人都有同样的看法。现在我们都是彼此的游戏竞争者。”还有一位母亲在接受《每日邮报》的采访时说道：
从根本上来看，如果不强化奖励指日可待的希望的话，人们也仍会为此做出反应（这是根植于操作性条件作用的心理原则，被叫做部分增强消退效应——不管是在老虎机还是大多数电子游戏中都具有重要影响）。另外一个出现在《每日邮报》文章中的女人（来自Bridlington一位拥有4个孩子的40岁妈妈Jenni Weaver）非常担心自己对《Candy Crush》的上瘾（并且基于她在采访中的回答，她也列出了一些正面的上瘾行为）。她告诉《每日邮报》自己的《Candy Crush》瘾性正在逐渐影响着家庭生活：
Bitter sweet? A brief look at ‘addiction’ to Candy Crush
by Mark Griffiths
On October 17, the ‘addictiveness’ of the game Candy Crush made the national newspapers when the Daily Mail published the story with the headline ‘How women blow ￡400,000 a day playing Candy Crush, the most addictive online game ever’. The Mail article said:
“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. With its twinkly lights, hypnotic music and comic sound effects, it has millions of people in its grip – and, like 2010′s Angry Birds, which even numbered [British Prime Minister] David Cameron among its fans, it has become an online sensation…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. According to the game’s creators, King.com, women aged 25-55 are the demographic most loyal to the game…According to ThinkGaming, Candy Crush makes an estimated ￡400,000 a day for King. That’s ￡146m a year, figures which have prompted the Office of Fair Trading to voice concern that guidelines are needed to stop firms exploiting young users.King claims that 90 per cent of its players are over 21, but maturity doesn’t seem to prevent women…from falling under Candy Crush’s spell”.
I was interviewed by the journalist that wrote the article [Jill Foster] who wanted to know why it was such an ‘addictive’ game and why so many women played it. I told her that Candy Crush is a gender-neutral games that has a ‘moreish’ quality (a bit like chocolate – although this analogy didn’t end up in the article) and can fit in flexibly around what women do in their day-to-day life. The game takes up all the player’s cognitive ability because anyone playing on it has to totally concentrate on it. By being totally absorbed players can forget about everything else for a few minutes. I speculated that this may be particularly appealing to many women whether they are a stay-at-home mother who has ten minutes to play it in between childcare, or a business executive on her commute. It’s deceptively simple and fun. I also noted that unlike many online games, Candy Crush doesn’t involve killing or fighting, and it doesn’t feature strong male characters or highly sexualized female characters. For those of you reading this that have yet to play Candy Crush, the Mail report provided a good description of the game:
“The rules of Candy Crush are indeed simple. Players move a variety of brightly coloured sweets – or 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. As a so-called ‘freemium’ product, basic access to the game is free, but users must pay for ‘premium’ services. Players aren’t charged to advance through the first 35 levels but after that, it costs 69p for another 20 levels, although it is possible to avoid paying by asking your Facebook friends to send you extra lives. However, the cost can rise as players are encouraged to buy ‘boosters’ such as virtual ‘candy hammers’ for around ￡1”.
In typical tabloid style, the Mail article had interviewed a number of women that were used as examples to demonstrate the existence of Candy Crush ‘addiction’. For instance, Lucy Berkley, a 44-year old company director from Ashford in Kent told of how she came into her office on a Monday morning with severe back pain. All of her work colleagues could clearly see she was in much discomfort. The cause of her back pain was Candy Crush that she had played for ten hours over the weekend hunched over her iPad. She claimed “I couldn’t help it, it was so addictive. The extraordinary thing was that almost everyone else in the room admitted they too were addicted. Now we’re all competing”. Another woman, Steph, a mother-of-one interviewed for the Mail article said:
“I’m thinking about it all the time. I call it “crack candy” because I imagine giving up is like trying to break a crack habit. I hadn’t heard of it until I saw that many friends – all intelligent, creative women – were playing it on Facebook. I’ve never played any other game on my phone. But I don’t like going a day without my ‘fix’. I play it whenever I have a free moment. In the morning I play on my commute and when I look around the train, nearly every other person seems to be doing the same. I’ll have a sneaky game or two at lunchtime. When I get home, I’ll leave the ironing or the housework and have half an hour – or more – on the iPad. [At the weekend when] I’ve got up and read the papers, I’ll start playing and that’s me sorted for the next three to four hours. In fact, I only usually stop when my iPad runs out of battery. My boyfriend thinks I’m mad. My son Ben, who is at boarding school, can’t understand my obsession. I’ve been known to meet him off a train and rather than give him a hug I’ve said ‘Just a minute Ben, I’m just getting on to the next level!”
She then went on to say:
“Over the past four months I’ve probably spent around ￡150 playing it. But it’s worth it…I’m thinking about it all the time. I wake up and the first thing I do is pick up my phone to have a game, then I’ll be playing if I get a spare second before work. I play it on my walk from the car to the office. When I come home, I play it while I’m cooking the evening meal or watching TV. [My partner] Martin thinks I’m bonkers. When the lights go out and we’re in bed he’ll say: ‘I know you’re playing it because I can see the light from your phone’ so I have to play it under the covers. My son asks: “Why are you playing that game again Mum?’ It’s as if our roles have been reversed. It’s taking over my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to stop”.
Although none of the cases covered in the piece appear to be genuinely addicted by the criteria I use to assess addiction, that doesn’t mean the cases are uninteresting psychologically or that games like Candy Crush are totally innocuous. I have noted in a number of my more general writings about games played via social networking sites that ‘freemium’ games are psychological ‘foot-in-the-door techniques that lead a small minority of people to pay for games and/or game accessories that they may never have originally planned to buy before playing the game (akin to ‘impulse buying’ in other commercial environments. I’ve also argued that many of the games played on social network sites share similarities with gambling. As I noted in my interview with the Mail:
‘On first look, games like Candy Crush may not seem to have much connection to gambling, but the psychology is very similar. Even when games do not involve money, they introduce players to the principles and excitement of gambling. Small unpredictable rewards lead to highly engaged, repetitive behaviour. In a minority, this may lead to addiction”
Basically, people keep responding in the absence of reinforcement hoping that another reward is just around the corner (a psychological principle rooted in operant conditioning and called the partial reinforcement extinction effect – something that is used to great effect in both slot machines and most video games). Another woman interviewed for the Mail story (Jenni Weaver, a 40-year-old mum of four from Bridlington) is worried that she’s addicted to Candy Crush (and based on her interview quotes, she certainly appears to disply some signs of bona fide addictive behaviour) She told the Mail that her Candy Crush addiction was beginning to affect family life:
‘I’m playing it for eight hours a day now and it’s become a real problem. My daughter told me about it. I was hooked straight away. The longest I’ve played for is 12 hours with just a few short breaks in between. It’s worse than smoking…Housework has gone to pot. I’ve even been late picking my ten-year-old up from school because I’ve been stuck on a level. I’ve burnt countless dinners and let vegetables boil dry because I’ve been engrossed. I’m trying to limit myself, but I can still spend eight hours a day playing it. It’s ridiculous.’
Earlier this year, I was interviewed at length by Mike Rose (for Gamasutra, the online magazine about gaming issues), who wrote a really good set of articles about free-to-play games. In one of Rose’s articles I argued that even in games where no money is changing hands, players are learning the mechanics of gambling and that there are serious questions about whether gambling with virtual money encourages positive attitudes towards gambling. As I have noted in a number of my recent articles, the introduction of in-game virtual goods and accessories (that people pay real money for) was a psychological masterstroke. It becomes more akin to gambling, as social gamers know that they are spending money as they play with little or no financial return. The real difference between pure gambling games and some free-to-play games is the fact that gambling games allow you to win your money back, adding an extra dimension that can potentially drive revenues even further. The lines between social free-to-play games and gambling is beginning to blur, bringing along with them various moral, ethical, legal, and social issues. The psychosocial impact of free-to-play games is only just beginning to be investigated by people in the field of gaming studies. Empirically, we know almost nothing about the psychosocial impact of gambling or gaming via social networking sites, although research suggests the playing of free games among adolescents is one of the risk factors for both the uptake of real gambling and problem gambling.(source:gamasutra)