It was this week, exactly a decade ago, that Activision Blizzard bought King, the studio behind Candy Crush. At the time, we didn't know what it meant.
We made jokes – hot takes, as we called them back then – about how an Activision exec had probably left their iPad in the company of an excitable four-year old with sticky fingers and no concept of credit cards. We laughed. Remember what it felt like to laugh?
But now the windows are boarded up and every crevice has been blacked out with whatever material we had to hand: curtains, blankets, torn-up gaming manuals. We'll never use those again. We'll never want to. We can't let them see us, we know what they'll do.
A small, thin, sharp ray of light scans across the room. They're outside now. We huddle, terrified, in the corner. A knock on the door.
"Excuse me," the Microtransaction Officer bellows. "Is anyone in? We have a special offer on immunity. Two weeks for only 5.99! Limited time deal!"
My husband looks up. "Actually," he says, "that's pretty good, isn't it?" He starts to get to his feet. "No!" I whisper urgently. "No, please!"
He makes his way to the door as I cradle our baby in the dark. He opens it.
"Hello," beams the officer. "Very nice house you have here. How many gems did you pay for it?"
My husband is taken in by the flattery of the officer. He gets out his wallet. I want to stop him, but I can't risk them seeing me. I can't risk another payment. I stupidly let our toddler play with my phone and now I have a huge overdraft and 5,000 gold coins to show for it. I can buy as many level skips as I want - but I can't buy a get out of jail free card. Those literally exist now, and I'll need one if they find me.
My husband has paid the officer now. But he's not done yet.
"Thanks for your purchase," he says. "But I see your car has a dent. Would you like me to fix that?"
"No it doesn't," my husband replies. "It's completel-" but before he can finish, the officer kicks the car door in.
"Fifteen gems," he says, smiling. "Or you'll have to replace the windscreen, too."
My husband freezes. He knows we don't have that. We saved up all our coins back before we had little Bruce. They wouldn't have let us take him home if we hadn't paid in full. If we were short on cash, we'd have had to buy him back in pieces – 'DLC', they called it. Now we barely have enough for our weekly rations, and we certainly can't afford to buy lifelong immunity for a one-off payment of 500 gems, even if it does come with 50 bonus gold coins for this week only.
Everyone's a sucker for a deal, aren't they? We blew a chunk of month's income on the new Call of Duty emotes. Just ten gems, three chocolate(TM) bar wrapper codes and three chants of "All praise the King". Now we can't afford the month's school fees for our second eldest. Soon we might not be able to afford food.
I'm already working 40 hours a week at the Match Three factory to make ends meet. The days are long. I have callouses on my hands from all the swiping. Endless rows of coloured things in front of my eyes have started to make my sight deteriorate.
Our daughter, she wants to make movies. She got a job as a production assistant at the Activision movie studio working on the next Call of Duty Saga: Zombies Edition movie. I know it's selfish, but if she can make a success of her life then maybe she can maybe pull us out of this mess.
The officer sees my husband's reaction. He knows we can't pay. He reaches for his handcuffs.
"Terribly sorry," he says. "Have to disable you. You'll be able to continue your life again in one week." With a quick, effortless motion he injects him in the neck. Forced coma. His third this year.
The neighbours watch from their windows. One woman is stuffing her face from a bag and I can barely bring myself to say it. Any mention of the word "candy" must be immediately followed by the most uttered slogan in the land: "a trademark of the Activision-King corporation, the great and the almighty". It's a ritual that became enshrined in law when the patent was secured. And yet they still can't make a decent Tony Hawk's game.
Welcome to the future now that Activision owns King.
Or, you know, things will just carry on like normal.
Article continues below