You've crossed level 13 and dodged the tricky gelled walls that threatened to stall your progress. The three red candies have been crushed. You've attempted this level five times already and it's now 3 am.
Clearly, you're addicted to a game called Candy Crush Saga. And just when you were about to download the latest craze, Flappy Birds, its maker Dong Ngyuen took it off the market earlier this month, citing the game's fame 'ruins his simple life'.
The kick, decoded
Earlier, the now-extinct PlayStation or Xbox had you hooked. Now it's your smartphone that has you up all night playing games. "Mobile phones can be used whenever you're free. Moreover, the reward points in games are taken as a sign of fulfillment," says Dr Sameer Malhotra of the department of mental health and behavioural sciences, Max Hospital, Saket, New Delhi.
In a recent news report, Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University said this kind of addiction starts with games offering short experiences. Games that can be played during a commute or between other tasks 'can be a massive stress relief.' American psychologist BF Skinner coined the term operant conditioning, a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behaviour. It is this thought process that goads users to spend more and more time playing mobile games.
Mobile ke side effects
Some levels in these mobile games, such as Candy Crush, are free. If you wish to play higher levels, you need to pay a nominal amount that doesn't burn a hole in your pocket. The biggest factor however that makes mobile games addictive is that it is mobile. "A user can play for one minute or 45 minutes depending on his choice of game or action," says Virat Singh Khutal, CEO of Twist Mobile, which develops mobile game apps.
Great Indian leveller
Siddharth Jain, CEO, Spice Labs Pvt. Ltd (they make gaming apps) analyses a game developer's mind, "If people are engaged and are enjoying the game, larger numbers usually follow."
One thing that mobile games have been able to achieve is to have gotten more people to play games. So this zone is no longer the preserve of serious gamers armed with a mission to be the winner. PR Rajendran of Nextwave Multimedia (which developed the game World Cricket Championship) says, "Mobile games are simple and can tap a much larger audience."
While most developers said they wouldn't pull their games off the market if they became extremely addictive, Utsav Ahuja from GameShastra (they developed a game based on Krrish 3) says a small fraction of people actually do get addicted to mobile games. "Our idea when developing a game is to get people to come back to the game again and again, and not to get them addicted", he says.
Whether or not Indian developers pull their games off the market for being addictive or not, mobile games will probably keep gamers addicted for a long time to come!
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From HT Brunch, April 13
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