Two weeks ago, I was a normal, well-adjusted American man. Now, I'm a fiend in need of repeated fixes. I'm a junkie who can't get enough of that sweet stuff.
I'm addicted to Candy Crush Saga.
Let's say your mail's addressed to the rock you live under. In that case, you may never have heard of Candy Crush Saga. So, let me tell you what it is and what it's like to be hooked.
Candy Crush Saga is a game app. Anyone with an Android phone, iDevice, computer and tons of time to kill can play. It's only been a thing to do since its release in November 2012. And since then, in six short months, Earth's inhabitants have collectively spent the equivalent of 103,000 years playing it. According to King, the game's developer, more than 50 million people play it every day.
The game is simple. Players try to line up three, four or five similar items -- candies, donuts, assorted sweets -- to clear items from the game screen. As the game advances, your job is made increasingly difficult by the sadists who created its levels of play. Of course, the more challenging the game becomes, the more the voice in your head that defies reason tells you to keep trying.
Today, everything I do or see reminds me of the game. On the freeway, I spy AT&T's symbol, a big, striped ball, and try to match it to two others, which aren't there. I hear it, too, in songs, like these:
"You've Got a Friend," Carole King Unless you're a Rain Man-like Candy Crush savant with the luck of a bushel of four-leaf clovers, you're going to get stumped at some point in the game. And, if you fail in consecutive and repeated order, you'll be locked out of future game play for a certain time period. Yes, it may only be 10 or 12 minutes to the rest of the world, but to you it'll seem like eons.
The only way to advance (aside from breaking out your credit card and paying for the right to continue) is to pester friends, family and complete strangers who also play the game to send you the "tickets" and lives required to resume play. Down and troubled because nothing is going right, you'll need a friend.
The best place to find help might be Facebook. Every day, 9 million Facebook users play the game. If you wondered why you've accepted invites from hundreds of people you wouldn't recognize on the street, Candy Crush Saga is your answer. These people can help you.
"Candy Girl," New Edition I noticed early on that nearly everyone I know playing the game with regularity (during lunch hour, between TV commercial breaks, when there's a momentary pause in any conversation) is female. I researched and confirmed my hunch.
Recently, King released lots of neat statistics about the game's followers including one that suggests 70 percent of players are female. Oddly enough, 300,000 of them are named "Maria," the most common name of all Candy Crush Saga devotees.
What's to account for this, I asked my wife, my own personal dealer, the woman who fed me my first fix.
"Maybe it started out being associated with women for some reason," she guessed. "Or maybe, since women and men see colors differently, the colors appeal more to our heightened color senses. Did you get my ticket request? Why are you half-stepping? Send me a ticket already so I can start my game again."
"Pusher Love Girl," Justin Timberlake The opening track from The 20/20 Experience is a sexy groove that likens JT's love to an addiction. By the end, he's singing lines like "my hydroponic candy jelly bean, did you fix me up? I'm your No. 1 fiend." I feel you, brother.
Unlike a gaggle of former teen starlets, I admit I need an intervention. I haven't found a support group or Betty Ford-like recovery center for Candy Crush Saga addicts yet, but I am certain there will be at least a virtual one soon and I probably need to attend.
Someone I'd never expect to play the game recently got hooked. I heard music coming from his laptop, but it wasn't the familiarly annoying music from the game. With a look of shame reserved for the worst of abusers, he admitted he was now playing something called "Papa Pear."
This, too, is a King game. His eyes cast downward, he said he'd received a Facebook message from Candy Crush Saga telling him if he wanted to advance in his game, he should try playing these other games they offered, like Papa Pear and something called "Bubble Witch Saga."
That's right, Candy Crush Saga is a virtual gateway drug.
"Pour Some Sugar on Me," Def Leppard Everyone who knows the game knows the sweet, sweet sound of the words "Sugar Cruuuush." When you hear those words, you know you are done with one level and moving on to the next swear-baiting challenge.
But, for that moment in time, you're allowed to celebrate your battle victorious. When I hear those words, I morph into 1980s Joe Elliott and sing the only line of the song I actually know - "Pour some sugar on meeee!"
So many "sugar" songs to choose from, right? You might favor the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar" or Flo Rida's "Sugar" or Flight of the Conchords' "Sugarlumps." If your name is Maria (all 300,000 of you!), you might go with A.B. Quintanilla's Kumbia Kings' "Azucar." But I always go with Def Leppard because I really don't like the song all that much, so I can sing, celebrate and quickly move onto the next level of play.
"Still Not a Player," Big Pun God bless Big Pun. Although he's been dead more than a decade now, at least he's resting in peace and not trying to figure out how to get more striped candies and sprinkle-covered donuts. Though, recalling his girth, it's apparent he was pretty good at getting candies and donuts.
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SHOW ME HOW
Anyway, if you are actually looking for a true escape from your Candy Crush dependency, you don't need to be listening to this song. Its lines are literally, "I don't want to be a player no more," and "I'm not a player, I just crush a lot."