It started to happen almost anywhere I went. Walking down the street I wanted to flip a Taxi’s parking spot with the Ford’s behind it. Then there would be three yellow cabs in a row. Poof! They’d disappear and all the cars would shift down. I began to make stink faces when walking past the jelly jars in the grocery store, and asked my wife if I could pay her $.99 to avoid going with her to Target. I, like millions of Americans, had fallen under the spell of “Candy Crush Saga.” The game app is the closest thing we have to electronic heroin, and far easier to score. In the end no one will be immune to its charms.

The game is actually very simple, and not totally original. It’s another one of those match three symbols together puzzle-based games, but this time you line up candy instead of jewels or peppers. The price to download is free and most of the action is incredibly benign. In the beginning of the game you might even find yourself bored. The early levels are designed to draw you into the game like a free hit of rock might do for your local crack dealer. One thing different from your local crack dealer is that he won’t bug you later for crack add-ons after you made your purchase. The thugs at “Candy Crush,” however, aren’t as classy. There seem to be hundreds of different things one can buy during the game. Want to use “jelly fish” during your levels? That’s only $1.99. No wonder “Candy Crush” is one of the top grossing apps even though it cost nothing to download it.

Other than the colors and the easy to pick up gameplay the real star of the game is the lives you risk when failing a level. Oh you thought that once you buy a game that you could play it whenever you want? That’s not the “Candy Crush” way. The level difficulty varies, but eventually everyone will hit a board that flummoxes him or her. They’ll lose all five of their lives, and then are left with a choice. Wait thirty minutes for one life to regenerate or just buy more lives and bypass all that pesky waiting. Americans aren’t known for impulse control, and “Candy Crush” offers you a $.99 way to jump the line. I made a promise to myself that I would never pay money to advance past a level in this game, but my wife didn’t think that was realistic.

“That’s impossible,” my “Candy Crush” veteran wife said as she shook her head.

“I refuse to fall into that trap,” I insisted in steadfast defiance.

“You’ll see.”

After I defeated level 35 I experienced the hell that my wife had warned me about. The game was congratulating me for defeating the first chapter of levels. Yeah me! I now was confronted with three choices before I could get to the next levels. The first choice was connect to Facebook and use my friends to open the levels. That was an immediate no go. I loathe Facebook communication[ref]Happy Birthdays on Facebook are the lowest form of human communication.[/ref] and the last thing I would do is tell the others that I needed their help with a candy-based game. Option two was to buy the next chapter of levels for $.99. That of course violated my no buying rule so that was out. Option three was defeating three additional levels before advancing. Oh really, they wanted to challenge me? I haven’t bought a thing and they think three levels can keep me from advancing? I started the first level and it took no time for me to beat it. One down and two to go. I was pumped. Then this came across the screen.

“Congratulations on passing the first level. Come back in twenty four hours to attempt to defeat the next level.”

Underneath this statement a clock started running back from 24:00:00. They were going to make me wait three days just to advance to the next level? That is when you start realizing that waiting three days to save $.99 cents is a losing proposition. I mean if I drop a quarter on a wet spot in a NYC street then the wet spot now wins, but I just couldn’t hand over that much money to this app. After five minutes of fuming and staring at countdown clock I gave in. Is it really worth depriving me of my iPad coke to save what equals half a packet of Juicy Fruit? I was a broken man when I purchased the new levels, but that sadness soon evaporated as I dove back into the world of matching candy.

We are nothing but prey to today’s app makers. They know what makes us tick and they know how to manipulate our addictive personalities. It’s the same sort of model that worked so well for beer and cigarette companies. I could go on for days ranting about the evils of this game, but my lives just fully regenerated, and I’ve been stuck on level 41 for two days. I won’t rest until I destroy all the jelly in that level and finally advance, and then I’ll be back with more reasons for you not to play. Until then, Just Say No.