Are the makers of Candy Crush taking advantage of you and your time? The explorer

Are the apps on your phone causing you to become glued to your screen? If so, it may not be entirely your fault! A new study has recently emerged paralleling many aspects of gambling to the ever so popular game of Candy Crush.

If you're not familiar with the colorful world of Candy Crush or its new found popularity, enjoy this brief introduction.

In both cases participants are openly alerted when they have fallen just short of a win. In Candy Crush this means unsuccessfully clearing the appropriate number of rows and columns in the designated number of moves provided.

This outcome deemed a “near miss” may be systematically the same as a regular loss, however, differs psychologically, proving to be more viscerally arousing and frustrating for players. This toys with the hope that with each near miss comes improvement.

Because practice makes perfect, right?

Knowing you came up just short of your goal instills hope that with “maybe just one more try” you could be successful. But there never really is a true win, is there? While each level up may elicit temporary satisfaction, no win will ever be fully satisfying until the game has been beaten.

Which, in Candy Crush, means completing over 3,000 levels, an ultimately unattainable feat, as more levels are being added as game popularity increases.

Knowing how close you came to success may seem at first a nice feature to the game. However, upon closer inspection the true reasons for alerting players of a near miss may be more manipulative than generous on the part of the designers of the game. The true intentions seem to be to take advantage of the unconscious addictive tendencies of the human brain.

Not only did players in the study report feeling more frustrated after a near miss, but the time between a finished game and the initiation of a new one was shorter than after a regular win or loss.

Near miss outcomes caused a significant elevation in heart rate when compared to simple wins and losses. These studies have been replicated with different mechanisms of conventional gambling and the same general results were observed.

Is it these psychological and physiological responses that eventually cause a spiral into addictive behaviors such as an increase in playing time to achieve the same desired level of excitement? Can these similar uncontrollable responses and tendencies observed in Candy Crush players be categorized as the foreshadowing for addictive behaviors?

People turn to meaningless phone games such as Candy Crush to escape the stress of everyday life. The same can be said for why individuals report returning to the casino; often claiming gambling acts an agent for combatting anxiety.

The largest difference between the two is the looming monetary reward associated with gambling, versus having no tangible reward at stake in Candy Crush. But it may be the designs of these games that keep us wanting more in both cases.

Knowing this, where do the makers of apps such as Candy Crush draw the line between the need for participation and revenue from a game and intentionally promoting addictive behaviors?


  • Larche, C. J., Musielak, N., & Dixon, M. J. (2017). The Candy Crush Sweet Tooth: How “Near-misses” in Candy Crush Increase Frustration, and the Urge to Continue Gameplay. Journal of Gambling Studies, 33(2), 599–615.
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