It seemed unimaginable that there might be a day when I would decide to say goodbye to mobile games forever. Some days ago, I did just that. No more Candy Crush, Farm Heroes Super Saga, or Cookie Jam on my phone. The trinity of 3-match games I have played on and off for these past years. I also did away with my latest vice, the phone edition of Tamagotchi (which, growing up, I had loved playing with Tamagotchi gadgets and even got in trouble once for bringing them to school). I once did a blog post about mobile games I enjoyed playing at the time, but now it’s no longer relevant to how I feel about mobile games in general.
My method for playing mobile games started out fairly simple years ago. Tap the app icon, let the game load, and slide away on the screen. The first time I ever played Candy Crush, it was on my mom’s tablet. It was amazing to me since I have never seen such eye-popping colors and graphics before. At the time, I only had a very dated version of the iPod touch, which I mostly used to put my favorite music on. I didn’t know I could download games from the App store icon. Over time, my version of the iPod touch could no longer handle loading the game graphics and the app would crash the more the developers updated the game. This was one of the reasons I got an iPhone 5, in addition to getting a phone plan so I could receive and make calls and use cellular data when wifi was not accessible. Anyway, I don’t know when I figured it out that I could turn off the game sounds while playing the actual game and instead have my music playlist running in the background. So I started doing that to entertain myself if I got bored of hearing the repetitive sounds and music track of whichever game I was actively playing. When I began to get into podcasts, I switched to letting a podcast episode on play mode while I was Candy Crushing.
The single worst thing about 3-match games for me was how it negatively affected my focus and attention span. Beating one level felt satisfying in the beginning, but soon that wasn’t enough. There is a competitive aspect to 3-match games like Candy Crush and many days I went from playing for 15 minutes to a whole hour to an hour and a half without stopping. The game had an addictive quality to it, especially times when I had unlimited lives and could keep playing all day if I wished to. I wouldn’t say Candy Crush should be banned but it is really up to the player to have discretion about how often he/she uses the game. For me, I did try in the past to not keep the app on my phone but only play when I felt like it. It didn’t work because the temptation to tap on the app icon was always there at all times of the day. Some nights it was just terrible. I would decide to listen to a new podcast episode and busy myself with a game at the same time. Half the time I would be so engrossed in the game that the podcast was like background static to me. See what I mean about the focus and attention span?
And then there was the developed habit of playing games on my phone while attempting to watch television. I began doing that without thinking of the consequences of my own behavior or understanding what I was trying to alleviate within myself. It was like this on and off for many years until in recent times I tried to make a conscious effort to put down my phone if I had the television on. This worked for television shows or movies I was deeply invested in focusing on for the duration they were on-screen, but not so much for when I was bored by what I was watching yet so restless about my environment that I would keep it on as I continued being glued to my phone.
I can count at least a few weeks this past year where I used mobile games as my safety net to keep myself occupied. It was a horrible distraction when I had other things I needed to do, but somehow it became more important that I log-in to collect my daily free item reward from Candy Crush or Cookie Jam. I do feel critical about this type of thing which may encourage a player to return to the game more often than they should. It’s downright annoying, particularly the one where a player must log-in consecutively every day to be able to claim better rewards each day on a calendar, and if he/she misses one log-in day, the reward goes back to the lowest level. Having something like this, it gives the player a false sense of necessity that they must log-in. I dealt with this for a very long time, and believe me, after a while, it felt like a tedious chore to get into the game every day for a reward. I also very much dislike the “timed events” where players can compete with others to get to the top of a ranking list based on how many levels they beat, and only those who get 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place actually get item rewards. Even The Sims on my tablet was no longer fun because I got bombarded every week with “limited time events”. I began in-game tasks late and sometimes didn’t finish in time, which made me feel like a total loser. The stress factor was there as well. I mean, actually getting stressed and anxious about a game, of all things. It was not worth getting worked up about. I saw how I kept gravitating towards mobile games as a way of relieving boredom but also as a lame excuse to procrastinate.
These past few days being free of mobile games, I feel happy about how much more I prioritized things instead of sitting on the sofa mindlessly getting lost in the cycle of swipe, swipe, swipe. I noticed I was able to spend less time on my phone, too, and even my battery lasted longer. Yesterday I walked over 10,000 steps (my FitBit watch counted for me) in an afternoon. Today I sweated it out with an hour-long yoga session. It may be that I am in the right place in my life since getting physically active recently became a goal of mine, and perhaps the absence of what I used to rely on (the mobile games) has motivated me to do more. I went clothing shopping on my own during a day when I had nothing planned, and to get there, I walked more than 1 mile. The old me, honestly, would have found the trip to be a damn hassle and probably would have stayed home to get mentally-drunk on my games. Or, even if I did go out, I still would’ve found some way to incorporate the games into my day, like going to the library to do just that instead of finding a good book to read. Even small things, like painting my nails for the first time in years, brightened my mood.