Behind those Sugar Candies



Candy Crush Saga


I hardly play games. Neither my phone nor my computer will become a subject of interest of any kid as they might not find any games in them to get hooked with. There are a few brain teasers in my phone which are not as entertaining as their favourite games. Many of my colleagues who got in to the smartphone realm share many things with each other during our leisure. Usually the topic centers around politics and other related topics. In case of youngsters we might add cinema and technology as additional topics of discussion.

About a month ago I was amused to notice them conversing and enquiring about the levels crossed in a video game. It was absolutely unprecedented as nothing of this sort has come up amid our casual chats. I became curious to know what the game was. Yes, it was Candy crush saga, one of the most downloaded App in the play store and across other platform as well.

I had been receiving the Facebook requests from friends inviting to play this game of candies for months now. I would wonder then why people are crazy about sending request after request even though I don’t respond to them affirmatively. Well, I wasn’t familiar with the design of the game then. Things are clear now and pondering more about the game has ended up penning this piece.


Operant conditioning


In Behavioural psychology, whenever we ponder upon the topic of learning there are two names we often come across: Classical conditioning and Operant conditioning. Anyone who has a basic knowledge in psychology might find these topics very familiar. The rest might have heard at least the story of Russian Psychologist Ivan Pavlov’s experiment on Conditioned salivation of dogs (That’s classical conditioning). The later theory of operant conditioning was put forward (in 1931) by the American psychologist B.F.Skinner.

Though basically these two theories shed light on learning and its association with human behavior, they also deal with the role of reinforcement in learning process.


“Reinforcement can be defined as a stimulus or event that affects the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated.”

– Understanding Psychology, 4th Ed, P:30


Piecing these two links together, we might better understand the success behind Candy crush saga. There is actually nothing innovative in the idea of the game in its core. In fact Wiki quotes that this game has striking similarities with a game Candy Swipes (2010) released two years before actually Candy crush saga was introduced to Facebook users in 2012. But I wonder the interest that elders show to this game overwhelming. I witness my colleagues share their hardships of crossing a particular level, more specifically they are much interested to know the number of levels cleared successfully by others. This tendency is a signature behavior of an adolescent, typical among teens and pre-teens.

While we play the game, the verbal rewards like “Sweet”, “Delicious” and “Divine” are simple yet strong reinforcements that kindle the player to repeat and prolong the engagement with the game. It is a proven fact that positive reinforcement induces continual engagement while negative reinforcements – like punishments- does the quite the opposite. Candy crush sage which basically designed with lot of positive verbal reinforcements is also meticulously designed without any negative reinforcements. Just think, if ever the game has a design that decrement the levels cleared as a punishment for the repeated failure in any given level, how many of us would have the similar urge to play the game?


Skinner Quote


Besides only a few adults have the urge to continue a game despite repeated failures. This is totally different with teens for they perceive (many assume) such challenges in games akin to real life challenges. The insatiable urge to cross a level is not as vigorous as an adolescent, in adults, in general. This game offers endless chances to clear a level, at regular intervals of time (the game design offers lives every half an hour after one squander all their available lives) provided if one is ready to cope up with the gap patiently. The game basically is not time bound and this is certainly an attracting factor of attraction for freshers and non-hardcore gamers.

On the other hand the simplicity of this game and facility to learn the nuances of every level in one’s own pace becomes the clinging factor that seduces even those who aren’t interested in video games at all.

Thinking simple also seems to be one of the main points to remember for a successful game design and this game testifies it and millions of active users across the world are there to vouch for it happily.



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