Good at games

16 October 2015

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ALL work and no play makes Jack a dull boy; so I like to balance my working life by playing games on my tablet and mobile phone.

Games on mobile devices have come a long way since the original tennis-like game, in which players moved a small solid line up and down to catch a square ball as it bounced from the other player’s line.

As technology has improved, so has the gaming experience. And, as we live increasingly connected lives, games have become more interactive, leading to a common complaint about Facebook: unwanted notifications and requests from other users playing, for example, Candy Crush Saga, by King.

Candy Crush Saga is based on a simple concept of making connections. The game is played on a grid of squares, each containing different-coloured candy shapes. To play the game, you swap two candies in adjacent squares to make a connection of three candies of the same type. Those are then replaced with new ones, and you win points.

If you make larger connections, such as a four or a five, then, in addition to those candies being replaced, you will also win special candies which can remove all candies in a line, regardless of their shape; or remove all candies of the same shape from the board.

For each round — there are 879, and more are being added — there is a set challenge. The challenges get harder as each round progresses. The early rounds are almost impossible not to achieve, as they are used by the developers to teach the basics of the game.

The early rounds can be completed in a matter of minutes — if not seconds. But you can be stuck on later rounds for weeks at a time as you try to complete the challenge. To make things more difficult, you are only given a maximum of five “lives” to play with at a time. If you fail to complete the challenge, you lose a life. New lives are given every 30 minutes — but only up to a maximum of five lives at a time.

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This is not the developer’s attempt to prevent people becoming addicted. You can get more lives by asking your friends to give you lives for free (hence the complaints about unwanted notifications) as a means of advertising the game; and you can also buy lives using what is known as “in-app purchases”.

This is where the developers make their money. The games are free to download and use, but you can hand over cash to buy lives and boosts. This is not necessary, however. I am at level 433, having never purchased a single boost or life.

Candy Crush Saga is an updated version of the original Candy Crush, and has itself been updated by Candy Crush Soda Saga.

Last year’s Facebook “game of the year” was Cookie Jam by SGN. It is decent, but a very similar format.

If you link the games to your Facebook account, you can play them on Facebook, PC, mobile phone, and tablet, and your progress will be synched across the devices. If you are going to let children play the games, switch off in-app purchases to prevent being hit by a large bill.

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