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The Candy Crush curse: Unpacking the iPad game phenomenon with three self-proclaimed addicts

iPad mums, everyone’s either got one, knows one, or has seen one on TV. They’re a pretty recognisable bunch, so if you spot one out in the wild, make sure to look out for these two very important identifiable things: a really old school iPad cover case which doubles up as a stand, and a seriously extensive portfolio which contains about a gazillion hours of gameplay on Candy Crush Saga.

Now, we’ve always known that iPad and mobile games are addictive, especially the kind which involve relatively straightforward problem solving and a plethora of levels to complete and conquer, but there’s definitely something special and unique about Candy Crush. A quick Google search for “Candy Crush addiction” and you’ll be quickly faced with a long list of articles detailing how this is indeed a very serious problem that needs to be addressed. There are even pages which list a number of “warning signs” to look out for if you’re concerned that you might know a CC addict.

According to the Observer, out of all of the apps of 2018 (including Tinder and YouTube) that require you to log in, three versions of Candy Crush made it to the top 10 list. That’s 30 per cent of the world’s 10 most-popular apps, beating out other popular games like Angry Birds and Pokémon GO. Candy Crush also brings in approximately $200 million in revenue each quarter.

While on the surface it might look like just a couple rows of candy canes, doughnuts and purple gumdrops, this is a multi-million dollar operation, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. It has a loyal fanbase of 250 million users and remains to be one of the most influential games of the past decade.

You might be curious as to why I’m so keen in delving deeper into this phenomenon. Well, as difficult as it is to admit, I myself have an iPad mum—I know, it’s rough. My very own flesh and blood has been addicted to this game since I was 14-years-old. From what I can remember, we were getting ready to go on holiday and my sister suggested to my mum that she download a game to play while on the plane. By the time we landed in Spain, she was hooked.

Since that fateful day in 2013, my mum has dedicated a lot of her time to Candy Crush. In total, across four versions of the game, she’s completed just over 18,008 levels. Yep, you read that correctly.

I sat down with Susan Sawyer, aka my mum of 24 years, to try and crack the code of why Candy Crush just does it for her more than any other form of relaxation or entertainment. First off, I asked her what first attracted her to CC, to which she mused: “You always want to get to the next level, it’s about beating the system. It’s that feeling of when you do the 10 consecutive games, and smash that run, it gives me a rush.” She also added “it’s the perfect amount of stimulation.”

Moving on, we spoke about how long she plays the game, on average. According to her, “it really depends on how long I have. I could play it for hours, but it also depends on how many lives I have.” In the game, if you lose all of your lives you either can purchase more or wait approximately thirty minutes to have it renewed. While some people would have no issue just buying the extra lives, mum’s never wanted the game to feel like gambling and so she’s never spent a penny on it.

Although, interestingly enough, according to the professional player herself, Candy Crush has begun to change its approach in regard to gaining new lives. Now, rather than wait 30 minutes or so, you simply need to sit through a three minute ad in order to obtain your lives. The ads can vary from Burger King to cosmetic surgery, although mum has noticed a big influx of “influencer marketing” advertisements recently.

Mum’s been tempted at times to move onto other games, expressing an interest in getting into some of the quintessential iPad wordplay games, but at the end of the day “[she] quickly forgets about those and just goes back to Candy Crush.”

This phenomenon is also in no way shape or form confined to my house. I recently spoke with two other CC addicts to try and find out a little bit more about how they first got attached to the infamous game. Sophie, mother of three, explained how she’d first gotten into the game six years ago after it was recommended to her. She’s currently sitting on level 4,821, manages to keep her sessions confined to only 20 minutes at a time, and cites her obsession with needing to get to the next level as her primary motivation to stick to it.

A definite recurring theme comes across when speaking to these CC-lovers, the game seems to provide that perfect balance of “excitement” and “relaxation.”

Of course, mums aren’t alone in their addiction—there’s iPad dads too. Sam, father of two, explained how after starting playing the game seven years ago, he kept going because he “always had the temptation to go back, keep doing better and keep going further.”

When I asked him how Candy Crush made him feel, he explained: “Sometimes it makes me feel really good and excited, when the game is going well and you’re progressing fast, but other times it can just be frustrating, especially when you’re stuck in a level in the game.” Sam’s also our first convert, having now moved over to Sudoku, a game he finds even more enjoyable.

So, we’ve seen that CC does not discriminate between age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. However, it’s long been a social stereotype that women in their 40s and 50s are iPad games’ primary customers and biggest fans. But why is that?

Mum has a few theories. In a world so often ruled by gender norms, she wonders if the bright colours, teddy bear characters and sweet-infused themes of Candy Crush might’ve previously put men off.

This might indeed be why creators King have developed a series of new gems which have sharper edges, and darker colours. Mum even added how she feels as though some of the levels have included more “dynamic” moves which might’ve been another strategy to sell the game as more enticing to male players.

The premise of Candy Crush is inherently unisex, but it definitely seems to appeal to women more. Why, we might never truly know. I honestly don’t believe that it’s an issue of gender—gaming is never that straightforward (and yes, I would count Candy Crush players as gamers). It’s a highly complicated topic, and one I’ll spend my entire life trying to understand. I’ll sign off with a quote from someone who’s had direct experience losing a loved one to this dangerous dangerous platform, aka my dad: “I just want my wife back…”

I was toxically positive for a week and I almost forgot how to emote normally

What do you get when you combine vision boards, tarot cards, crystals, daily positive affirmations and manifestation? The hardcore belief system of a chronically online gen Zer with a feral TikTok account and a monthly subscription to Wild deodorant. Boomers might label us as snowflakes, but it’s truly remarkable the lengths we’ll go to in search of that one method of madness which will help us navigate the peaks and troughs of 21st century life. Be it sashaying from one trend to another or re-routing our lives because Mercury is in retrograde, we gen Zers have a way of clutching onto niche forms of self-help and not letting go—no matter how toxic they get.

These word of mouth ‘belief systems’ can be incredibly healing and comforting. Who’d realistically say no to practising a daily mantra primed to invoke inspiration and happiness? So, I began my experiment, in search of an answer as to whether or not putting these routines into practice on a regular basis would actually impact my overall mood, or whether it would be a conclusive flop.

Some important background information

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no novice when it comes to investing in ethereal and astrological therapy—I spent the majority of my time at university charging crystals under the moon and then wondering why Tom Hardy hadn’t announced himself at my front door, begging to be my boyfriend. Heck, I even own my own personal deck of tarot cards—my go-to party trick when dull conversations need spicing up.

However, I’d never really bought into the overly positive aspect of manifestation. Considering I’m completely in tune with and in favour of astrology, it’s ironic that my hypocritical tendencies would always crop up whenever someone mentions positive affirmations—or indeed their supposed healing powers. And, of course, people have long debated the concept of toxic positivity—wherein an individual is encouraged to maintain a positive mindset, no matter how much they’re struggling or how angry and upset they truly are.


toxic positivity #QuickerPickerRapper #fyp #xyzbac #toxicpositivity #positiveenergy #relationships #90sAesthetic

♬ Lofi - Domknowz

I think we can all agree that always staying positive—no matter what the circumstances—is both unrealistic and extremely inauthentic. However, would it be so bad to try and emulate a somewhat positive outlook on life on a daily basis? As someone who is highly sensitive, prone to emotional outbursts and often downright stubborn, I thought it’d be an interesting experiment to try and pursue a ‘toxically positive’ mindset for an entire week and see how it played out. The purpose of this test is to truly take things to the extreme and force myself to dabble with every positive method possible. Fingers crossed I don’t go completely insane by the time the seven days are up!

My daily routine for a week

7 am to 11 am

Some ground rules. If I’m going to take this to the extreme, I need to implement a lot of changes. First things first, create a vision board to circle back to every morning. The last time I used Pinterest, I was 13 and clinically obsessed with Audrey Hepburn so I’m starting from scratch here. The hope is to skip past any surface-level aesthetic desires, and instead focus on gathering inspiration for 2023 in a healthy way.

I was toxically positive for a week and I almost forgot how to emote normally

Of course, fast forward two hours later and, as you can see in the screenshot pictured above, the whole “skipping past any surface-level aesthetic desires” flew straight out the window as soon as I was confronted with the vast array of nail inspo the platform had to offer. Nevertheless, creating the board was a genuinely enjoyable experience and if there’s one site designed to unleash your inner Elle Woods, it’s Pinterest.

Next up is compiling a list of five songs to listen to every morning. Much like my fellow gen Zers, I find music to hold an array of healing properties—aside from the fact that I’ll potentially suffer from severe hearing loss by the time I’m 40. Either way, it’s undeniable that if I listen to Phoebe Bridgers on a never-ending loop there’s no way I’ll be able to emulate a positive mindset. So, instead I chose five songs that for some reason fill me with an inordinate amount of pep and pizzazz.

In order—curated so as to build a climactic ascendancy—my playlist goes: ‘Volare’ from the film soundtrack to The Lizzie McGuire Movie, ‘Yuck’ by Charli XCX, ‘Freaky Deaky’ by Doja Cat, ‘Call Me Mother’ by RuPaul—don’t knock it till you’ve tried it—and ‘I’m The Greatest Star’ by Barbra Streisand. Before you say it, yes this might be the most emotionally unhinged collection of songs to ever exist. However, they’re some of my favourites and listening to them on repeat each morning did genuinely improve my mood.

11 am to 6 pm

The mid-day slump is a feeling we can all relate to. But when you’re toxically positive—it’s simply another opportunity to live your absolute best life. That’s why I decided to write my positive affirmations around this time of the day for the sake of this experiment.

Now, I think I might have misunderstood affirmations and manifestations in the past. As far as I was aware, manifestations occurred after three glasses of wine and in the midst of a tumultuous introspection spiral. You’d write down 20 lines of ‘I’d like a boyfriend, please,” fumble to find a makeup wipe, set a gazillion reminders to drink more water and call it a night. This, of course, is not how it’s meant to be done.

While manifestations and positive affirmations can’t literally produce results, they can allegedly influence the energy you put out into the universe, thereby inherently having a positive impact on your life.


TRUST ME. Come back at the end of 2023 and tell me if EVERYTHING you wrote didnt happen. #manifestation #scripting #scriptingmanifestation #visionboard #visionboard2023 #manifestationtips #scriptingmanifestation #lawofassumption

♬ original sound - Laura Galebe

According to Vox, the art of manifestation gained mass popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic due to people searching for a sense of control and method amid all the chaos. These quarantine trends skyrocketed in popularity. We now have entire TikTok accounts dedicated to offering the best manifestation tips and templates for worthwhile positive affirmations. So, whatever cynics may think—it’s working for a lot of people.

In fact, in regard to worldwide popularity, YouTube search data has shown that positive affirmations ranked in third position in 2022, with 5,100 monthly searches in the UK and 42,000 globally, as recorded by The Knowledge Academy.


Drop a comment ⬇️ I love responding to everyone! ✨ #affirmations #manifestation #positiveaffirmations #manifestgreatness

♬ original sound - user1758887665900

Another very similar trend that blew up just as we entered the new year, is the Lucky Girl Syndrome. Closely associated with manifestation, this conceptualises the mindset of whatever I assume to be true, will be—aka the law of assumption. In a number of videos explaining the trend, creators boast about how after repeating the phrase “everything just works out for me” over and over again, they saw a distinctive improvement in their lives—whether that be at work, with friendships or with family.


i don’t know why it works but… everything works out for us #luckygirlsyndrome #luckygirl #luckygirlsyndrom #manifestation #affirmationsoftheday #affirmations #collegelifehack #lifehack #college #collegegirls

♬ original sound - sammy k

It should be noted that while I’m making a conscious effort to get on board with positive affirmations, it would be insensitive and irresponsible to not recognise and point out the clear associations being a so-called ‘lucky girl’ has with having privilege. As reported by The Guardian, what might seem as a harmless trend, is also reflective of a much darker reality: cruel optimism.

Superficial positive thinking can serve as a comfort to those who already hold structural and institutional power. What it doesn’t do is solve or combat systemic societal issues. Taking note of these factors is integral to anyone who wants to blindly participate in these kinds of online-grown belief systems.


We need to talk about lucky girl syndrome and how it intersects with privilege #luckygirl #luckygirlsyndrome #manifestation #collegehacks #lawofassumption

♬ LoFi(863235) - skollbeats

With all that being said, I did make a conscious effort to consider positive affirmations on a daily basis. Mumbling phrases such as “I’m strong” and “I’m capable” to yourself might feel incredibly ridiculous in the moment—and while sitting on the tube with a bunch of strangers—but after a few days, you can begin to feel a slight change. Unlearning self-hate takes much longer than seven days, but it’s always nice to know there’s options to explore that exist outside of a Jägerbomb-induced blur.

8 pm to 11 pm

Ah, finally. The night is winding down and I only have one last thing to do: charge my crystals. For a lot of people, this is by far the strangest and potentially dumbest aspect of pursuing a toxically positive mindset. Nevertheless, I’ve always quite liked this concept and it would be scientifically reckless not to explore every facet of this lifestyle, right?

All I needed was a handful of colourful crystals, an open window and a pair of fingerless gloves. The charging process itself is quite self-explanatory: you hold up your stones, face them towards the moonlight and hope that all of the universe’s good energy gets sucked in—leaving you with a hefty and powerful source of positivity.

Quick word of warning: if you do try out this method, I’d recommend waiting until a clear night, otherwise you’ll end up with useless crystals and an extremely sore arm. Also, if you happen to have a small balcony or ledge, leaving your crystals out in the sunlight for 24 hours can help with ridding your spirit of any negativity.

My findings

There you have it, I was toxically positive for an entire week, and if we’re being completely honest, it didn’t teach me all that much. Of course, I can recognise the benefits of actively seeking out positive thoughts and pursuing a happier state of mind, but does it end up becoming more of a passive chore than active comfort?

I think the fact that a number of gen Zers base their mental health and emotional stability off of a somewhat flippant and timely TikTok trend speaks to how desensitised we’ve become. I’m not suggesting manifestation was born online, but it’s undeniable that its current existing state was morphed from online inference and opinion.

With that being said, listen to your favourite music each morning and vision board to your heart’s content. But think of these methods as a helpful aid or addition to your day, not as an official coping mechanism.