I’ve been stuck on Level 167 of Candy Crush Saga for the better part of 6 months now. Well no, not exactly. I laid off for about a month because of sheer annoyance and spent another half month trying to get my confidence back with Candy Crush Soda. I’ve just reverted to the original (which isn’t always the best) because Soda is giving me trouble as well. My absence didn’t make Saga fonder of me, though; I’ve been crashing and burning since yesterday, and I’m beginning to feel insecure.
It’s amazing how a game that’s supposed to be relaxing ends up a measure of skill and endurance, especially when played “against” Facebook friends. (How did they do it? How did they get to Level 168??) I played out all my lives while having my hair cut yesterday, and while they recharged, I sulked. It seems the same people get onto the leaderboard over and over again. Why is that? Is there a special intelligence for this not given to me? Nearly every Facebook game I’ve tried so far has shown pretty much the same friends in the top ten – all the time. I viewed the stats again with defiance and muttered a defensive soliloquy: I’m a college graduate, I have a masters degree. I can do stuff. I just can’t see the configurations fast enough is all. Some folks can, I can’t. I was never good at math. I can write. I make a mean meatloaf…
I surprise myself with my petulance. This is just a game, not a battle. It’s meant to be played, not fought. My self-image should not be at risk here. But isn’t my angst justified? Seeing “You failed!” over and over again is bound to have an effect even on the phlegmatic (which I certainly am not).
I have a friend who is our resident Candy Crush expert. She was over level 400 (is there such a thing and will I ever get there?) several months ago and who knows what level she’s on now. I think King makes new Candy Crush levels just for her. When my other friends are stuck, they ask her to get them through. She takes their device with aplomb and swipes away. In a few minutes, voilá. I have no idea how she does it. She’s a cardiologist; maybe that’s it. Studying those ECGs day in and out might have trained her…why not? I could easily ask her to get me out of 167. I know it, but stubbornly, I won’t.
My deliverance from Level 167 will come from my own efforts or not at all. It’s a self-esteem issue, just like most things connected with Facebook are. This medium for supposedly friendly interaction has become the venue for probably the greatest concentration of unadulterated self-levitation, envy, and competition in the last decade. It’s a neighborhood with millions of Joneses and their wannabes, hustling to keep up. The FB-affiliated game apps pander to this and themselves promote a gleeful one-upmanship. Complete a level on Candy Crush and you are offered the chance to lord it over your friends with a public notice (“I beat you at Level 8 on Candy Crush Saga!” Hah!). Ok, great, applause, you’re amazing…but not really very nice.
I like Facebook, but I don’t like what it’s becoming and I don’t like how it sometimes makes me feel. I appreciate how it allows me to keep up with friends near and far but not when I see some of those friends put on airs and facades and profile pics designed specifically for the news feed. Which, if we’re honest, happens all the time. In reaction, I’ve adopted a policy of honesty and simplicity in my Facebook dealings. If it’s not what actually happened or not really how I felt or if I can’t properly set the context of a photo or a statement, I won’t post it. My FB circle doesn’t have to know what I ate and where in the last 3 days, or view me in a collage of various selfies, or listen to my angry rants. I am on Facebook to stay in touch and to share my faith and my writing and, hopefully, to be a positive presence among my friends. I won’t be a Jones wannabe, no matter how tempting that is at times.
So back to Candy Crush. I’ve got my mojos back and I’m determined. I am pitting myself not versus the leaderboard but against that little paper doll cartoon that keeps telling me I failed. I will stare her down. I will never surrender. I will keep on keeping on until I make it out of 167, whenever that may be. And in the downtime when my lives are recharging, I will hone my skills in Candy Crush Soda and Bubble Witch Saga and Hayday and The Secret Society – friendlier games that show me a bit of respect.
And if having tried yet I fail, when I’m at my lowest, there is that last resort, the pièce de résistance in my arsenal of games. Candy Crush Saga and that little paper doll can simply go hang because, dang it all, I’m a wiz of a wiz at Lost Bubble.