THE BLOG

Is Candy Crush the New Mensa?

12/03/2014 14:23 GMT | Updated 12/05/2014 10:59 BST

I'm not ashamed to say that as a family we're addicted to gaming.

We've worked our way through the Candy Crush Saga, we loved Flappy Bird and now we've moved on to the game Threes, a highly addictive numbers game.

Unsurprisingly, it is so compulsive that it is currently one of the top paid for apps on the Apple store.

It is both beautifully simple and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

As a family we're hooked. From the five-year-old, to the teenagers, to my wife, we all play competitively and desperately want to win. Instead of second screening isolating the family unit, we're finding that gaming is bringing us together in the way that board games used to for previous generations.

Gaming is also setting new goalposts about intelligence.

I've just come back from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. While I was there my daughter sent me a snapchat message with her latest score on Threes - 7000. It seemed crushingly high in comparison to my 600.

When I got home my wife - who's the least techy member of the family - proudly announced that in fact it was her who had hit the 7,000 mark. To make matters worse for us all, my wife's friend said she'd reached 20,000 and her husband was up to 29,000. The sense of despair in the DigitalDad household was palpable. Still onwards and upwards.

You might think that these people spend their lives playing games in a fog of isolation but actually these games fill our free time, can stave off boredom and provide a great talking point for family and friends.

A new study by Pixelkin, a US company that aims to bring families closer through gaming, found that nearly 67% of parents who purchased video games played those games with their children with both mums and dads joining in.

I think this a great development - not only do we spend more time talking together, but I believe the scientific research, which has found that playing online puzzles could reduce your risk of getting dementia. One major US study concluded that people who keep their minds active throughout their lives have lower amounts of a protein that forms beta amyloid plaques, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer's.

I'm convinced that your score on Candy Crush is a far better indicator of your intelligence than a Mensa certificate. Staving off Alzheimer's is one thing, but I'm intrigued by what this means for children's developing brains.

Is this a good thing? Yes. But it can also be highly embarrassing if you're not good enough, as I was reminded recently on a Business Class flight while travelling for work. Thousands of feet in the air, I was playing Candy Crush instead of working as a smiling airhostess offered me a drink. As I thought about what to choose, she had a sideways look at my score. I'd been stuck on level 30 for about a month. I saw the disbelief in her face, which slowly turned to disgust.

"Level 30? I'm on level 300," she sneered and with that she pushed the trolley off. For the next 10 hours she ignored me and as DigitalDad became DigitalDeadbeat I wanted to press the eject button. Candy Crushed!