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The Problem with “Candy Crush Moms”

If you haven’t heard that mobile games are a huge and growing business, here’s your wakeup call.

Given this, perhaps it’s no surprise that a mass market that is only getting more massive is often subject to ridicule and broad generalizations. The unwashed masses of mobile gamers are often derided as being not “real gamers” and being concerned only with wasting a few minutes while waiting for their bus or in line at the grocery store. The not-too-subtle suggestion is that these players aren’t concerned with quality and have no skill so simplistic mobile games are the only sort they are able to or willing to play.

What’s most distressing though is that these put-downs often come with a healthy dose of misogyny. The most recent case is a particularly egregious one. The headline, which refers to Candy Crush Moms sets a bad tone from the get go. And in case you are confused about who these “Candy Crush Moms” are, there’s some clarification later on (italics mine):

“So the Candy Crush Mom, the woman who never played a game in her life, but is really into Candy Crush, isn’t going to tell her kid to quit playing games and go out and get some exercise.”

First, let’s dispense with some facts. Over 93 million people play Candy Crush Saga and it’s extremely unlikely that they are all women. King, the makers of Candy Crush, says women 25-55 are their “most loyal customers” but that isn’t remotely the same as saying only women play the game-which clearly isn’t true, as you can see just by the high number of Candy Crush Let’s Plays made by male gamers.

Second, while it’s possible that more women than men play mobile games, research has shown that women dominate other spheres of gaming as well. It’s thus reductive and just plain wrong to say that all mobile gamers or all women play Candy Crush, and that this is the only game they play or have experience with.

The implication, ironically pulled from a quote by a games analyst who persistently predicts the end of console gaming, is that Candy Crush is an unsophisticated game for unsophisticated people.

Except “people” wasn’t the word that was used, it was “moms.”

Ah yes, moms. We all know this monolithic group, right? The one that’s comprised of robotic automatons changing diapers and dispensing warnings to wear a jacket or eat your vegetables. The one that isn’t made up of individuals with a vast array of interests and life experiences. The one that we can simply refer to as “moms” and instantly conjure an image of someone hopelessly uncool and probably not too bright. You know this group, come on. It’s closely related to that larger faceless mass of which it is a part, the one called “women,” which everyone knows is comprised of people who like flowers and jewelry, cry at sad movies and don’t know how to fix their computer.

Unfortunately, none of this is new or unheard of. Moms are sadly accustomed to getting a cultural kick in the teeth from a society that rarely appreciates their contributions and when it does, insists that they must be dim-witted simpletons in order to contribute. Surely only a brainless twit would either choose or be somehow consigned to unpaid childcare duty; it’s no wonder that they zone out to Candy Crush in the grocery check-out line.

The reasons for why this type of thinking is problematic should be clear, but let’s go over some that haven’t already been mentioned.

Problem number one is that women, and specifically mothers in this case, are being shamed for gaming choices that suit their lives and life circumstances. It should hardly need to be said, but caring for children, household tasks, and working outside or inside the home as many moms do leaves little leisure time. Mobile games, with their less strenuous time commitment and much greater accessibility, are thus a perfect fit for someone with a packed schedule and limited headspace. Looking down on a gamer that fits this profile is like looking down on, say, the substandard reading skills of a child who goes to an inner city school lacking in resources.

Problem number two is the completely bogus value assessment of games as the time it takes to play them. A game like Candy Crush can be played in short bursts, therefore the implication is that it must be inferior. This is clearly false.

Length is obviously not a metric of game quality and yet it’s consistently used as such by people who presumably want to justify the many hours they spend playing their preferred games and place themselves high above those who don’t game as much. This, by the way, is an attitude that is embarrassingly common in games while not being prevalent in other hobbies. A car nut for example doesn’t look witheringly on those that don’t spend hours tinkering with their engines; they just conclude that their interests lie elsewhere.

Finally, let’s put to rest the completely wrong-headed thinking that games like Candy Crush are simple, uncomplicated, easy to make games. Any game developer will tell you, irrespective of their own gaming preferences, that Candy Crush Saga is an expertly made game from both a design and execution standpoint-and famously difficult to complete.

You don’t have to like it, but to deny its mastery is willful ignorance.

Almost more ignorant than believing that mobile gamers, moms, women or all of the above aren’t “real gamers.”

Anna Tarkov
Anna Tarkov is an émigré from the former USSR who has been taking America by storm since 1989, failing at or washing out of everything she’s ever tried. Most recently that included working in journalism which was fun, but paid slightly more than minimum wage. Currently Anna is a stay-at-home-not-by-choice mom to an adorable, little autistic preschooler, a casual gamer extraordinaire and the co-host of Unconsoleable.
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Anna Tarkov
Anna Tarkov is an émigré from the former USSR who has been taking America by storm since 1989, failing at or washing out of everything she’s ever tried. Most recently that included working in journalism which was fun, but paid slightly more than minimum wage. Currently Anna is a stay-at-home-not-by-choice mom to an adorable, little autistic preschooler, a casual gamer extraordinaire and the co-host of Unconsoleable.

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