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The Free-To-Play Challenge: Free Is The New Hardest Difficulty

I can’t stop playing Candy Crush Saga. With its sugary-sweet aesthetic, relaxing music, and satisfying match-three gameplay, I find myself playing it every night before I go to bed. I don’t even mind that I have to wait a couple of hours for my lives to recharge after a few tries. If not for that recharge, I might never stop playing. If forces me to take breaks, and not in the way Nintendo games remind you to go outside every few hours. Candy Crush Saga looks you in the eyes and says, “Stop it. It’s time to do the dishes.”

Candy Crush Saga is a good game. Its monetization elements are pricier than they should be, but that’s not the reason I don’t want to spend money on it. This might surprise game makers, but I don’t mind spending money on video games. I don’t feel like spending money on Candy Crush Saga is a rip off, nor do I feel as though I am being taken advantage of whenever it offers me the opportunity to buy something. I don’t want to spend money on Candy Crush Saga, because I see that as its challenge.

Video games are a gauntlet of trials that challenge the player to overcome obstacles. Video games have undeniably become easier to defeat over the years, even as they have also gotten more complicated. When I purchase a single-payer game, I want to beat it, and I want to do it without the help of others or cheat codes. There is a challenge in front of me set forth by the developer, and I am determined to overcome it.

This is the reason I can’t bring myself to spend money on Candy Crush Saga. The moment I spend money on the game to get more lives, or get a special item that makes that level I have been stuck on for a week easier, is the moment I will feel as though I have failed. Spending money on the game feels like I’ve entered a cheat code, and it is my goal as a life-long gamer to defeat the base Candy Crush Saga experience without any help.

I have been playing the game for months at this point, and just cracked level 70 a few nights ago. Currently, Candy Crush Saga has 395 levels, and more get added with every update. Whenever I look at the overworld map, a feeling of despair comes over me. I am spending two to three days on a single level – sometimes more. At this rate, it will take me more than two years to get to the end of the game.

Every time I open the game I overcome that despair, squinting at the finish line far in the distance, and press on. I would rather lose interest or declare defeat and delete the game than use the monetary tools at my disposal to make the game easier. In my eyes, the game I downloaded is the version I have been tasked with beating, and I will be doing it without my wallet’s help.

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