Will You, Shall You, Will You, Shall You Save a Bear?*





Posted by M. K. Waller

Giant HEB grocery cart @ the Texas Book Festival, October 2014

One of my Sisters in Crime invited me yesterday–online–to help staff the Heart of Texas’ chapter’s booth at the Texas Book Festival in November. The online invitation invited me to schedule the event on my online calendar. And how glad I am that I did, because in so doing I discovered that my WWW post is due today.

As you might have guessed. I rarely look at my calendar. I rarely remember I have one. It comes to mind when my husband remarks he’s putting something on his calendar. That’s the way we operate–he remembers everything, so uses a calendar; I don’t, so I don’t.

Anyway, my (perpetual) pledge to write all posts in advance of need went kablooie. But it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d looked at the calendar every day. I have been too distracted to write.

“shelf with stuff” by Lynn Kelley Author licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I’ve discovered Candy Crush.

For months, perhaps years, I’ve wondered about Candy Crush. I’ve seen ads for it on Facebook, and FB friends have invited me to play. I’ve even seen ads on television. But with characteristic self-discipline, I restrained myself.

“Candy Crush is a time waster, the work of the devil,” I said, “and I shall not partake.”

To reinforce my resolve, I added, “I will not partake.” One gem I retain from grammar class is the proper use of shall and will:

Shall is used to denote simple futurity: I shall write my post for Writing Wranglers and Warriors early so I don’t have to stay up half the night wondering what to say and the other half saying it. (i.e., I’m gonna get this over with early.)

Will, on the other hand, denotes both futurity and determination: I will write my post for Writing Wranglers and Warriors early so I don’t have to stay up half the night wondering what to say and the other half saying it. (It’s gotta happen, so it’s gonna happen, so help me Hannah.)

Some people claim  the shall/will rule is archaic and unnecessary. It isn’t generally observed now, especially in the United States. But I learned it, and I remember it, and I follow it.

Except for this time. If I’d said, “I will write my post early,” it would have been all tucked away in the queue several days ago, waiting for automatic posting at 12:01 a.m. (four minutes ago).

But again I lie: It wouldn’t have been ready. Because curiosity got the better of me. I took the click bait, added it to my Facebook page, and got hooked. I am a sucker for games in which three pastel or neon-hued thingies smash together and disappear in a burst of color.

With every burst of color, my brain releases a burst of dopamine. Dopamine is better than candy.

In my haste to play, I skipped the rules, so I can offer only a fuzzy description of the past week’s activities:

Bears. I’ve been saving bears, uncovering bears, and getting bears in little bubbles to float from the bottom of a container of liquid to a point above a string of tiny pink and blue candies that look like mints.

Candy Crush box. © MKWaller

Jellies. I’ve been dissolving jellies. They look like Chiclets individually encased in little plastic sleeves. For a long time, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be smashing and gathered monochrome threesomes randomly. That’s not the most efficient way to dissolve jellies.

Ingredients. I’ve been gathering ingredients. I don’t know what recipe they’re using, but cherries and acorns are the only ingredients available for gathering.

There are a lot of three-smash games online. Most require no thought. That’s why I play them. The hand moves, the mind drifts. If you lose, you lose, and then you begin again.

Candy Crush, on the other hand, is sneaky. I’ve been stuck on the same level for hours at a time. As soon as I learned how to clear all the jellies, CC stuck a mountain of divinity on the board and later added chocolate. When I reached a certain level, squares of chocolate already cleared started to reappear, just in time to plop down onto a candy I was targeting. Keeping chocolates from retaking the board requires speed and skill. I have the skill, but I can’t muster enough speed to use it.

To make things interesting–and to keep players playing–there are ways to smash more than three candies at a time. Smash four or five at once and the board goes crazy, zapping candies all over the place and piling up points. But I’ve noticed that the higher I go, the fewer zaps I get. Sneaky.

Bear in bubble (saved) © MKWaller

The game has an attitude, too, a snarky one. Some levels mark a loss by sliding out a sign saying, You’re so close, only three more bears to uncover. Sometimes it’s manipulative and plays on guilt: You didn’t save all the bears. Then it says you can buy more plays. No way. I click Give up. Then another sign appears to say, You failed. And again I click Give up. That transaction strikes me as rude. I’m not paying anyone who says, “You failed.”

Candy Crush has another tactic designed to rake in cash: Each day when you start the game, it lets you retry and retry and retry to pass a level. If you pass, you move up to the next. But if you fail, the game gets stingy. You click Retry, and here comes a little box telling you to either ask friends to give you more plays or buy them from the company.

I’ve already said what I think about paying for dopamine.

And I’m not about to tell friends I’m wasting my time on a mindless computer game. They can see that I’m playing–I’ve been ranked on the leader board among former students and former colleagues and other people who (maybe) thought I knew better.

Then, when you close that box, up pops a little clock that counts down the minutes until you get another life–in other words, until you can resume play. The first time, you’re paused for only four minutes, or eight, but soon you find yourself stalled for a good thirty minutes.

Ball-and-stick model of the dopamine molecule is licensed by Jynto under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

It’s like they’re withholding my dopamine until I pay the ransom.

If Candy Crush played nicely with others, I would be ashamed to admit this, but it doesn’t, so I’m not–I have found a way to reduce my time in limbo without touching my pocketbook. After playing Candy Crush Saga for several days, I discovered Candy Crush Soda Saga. I added it to my FB page and opened it and played it, and got all kinds of dopamine . . . and when it told me to pay up or get out, I reopened Candy Crush Saga, whose clock had by that time run down, and I played that until I failed too many times, and then I went back to Candy Crush Soda Saga and …

The system isn’t perfect. Because wait times vary, I can’t play continuously. To take the edge off my dopamine deficit, I find other things to do in the interim: work the crossword puzzle, eat organic toaster pastries, think about working on a short story I started fifteen months ago, writing a blog post…

It’s amazing how much you can get done in those little bits of time if you use them wisely. I’ve written this entire post while waiting for alternating Candy Crush games to finish their countdowns.

And I haven’t lost any more sleep than I normally do composing the traditional way. Plus,  my brain is simply awash in dopamine.

And between finishing the preceding paragraph and beginning this one, I saved one bear (from drowning, I guess), cleared all the jellies off a board, amassed 240,600 points, declined to share news of my achievements on Facebook, and received an offer to play again in 15 minutes.

And it’s not even 2:30 a.m. yet.

Who says Candy Crush is a time waster?




I’m a retired librarian living in Austin, Texas, and amusing myself by writing fiction and herding cats. My stories have been published in Mysterical-E and in Austin Mystery Writers’ crime fiction anthology, Murder on Wheels. My latest publication is “I’ll be a Sunbeam” in DAY OF THE DARK: Stories of Eclipse, edited by Kaye George and published by Wildside Press on July 21, 2017, in celebration of the total solar eclipse that will be visible from parts of the United States on August 21.

21 thoughts on “Will You, Shall You, Will You, Shall You Save a Bear?*

  1. Your post dredged up memories of my early days on Facebook when I played Farmville. Lots of relatives and friends were playing the game at the time, so I tried it out. It sucked up my time. I played it way more than I should have. Even started buying stuff for my farm, with the charges put on a credit card. I expanded way beyond a farm. I built a village — and those buildings in the village didn’t come cheap. I finally camp to my senses and stopped playing. My production in my WIP at the time jumped dramatically. Lol.


    1. You know, I wondered what happened to Farmville. Two friends used to request cows. I guess they’ve found CC. Actually I know they have, because I’ve seen their pictures. I’m afraid I bought something one day, strictly by accident. I’ve been more careful since. I look to you for inspiration. If you can kick the habit and write books, maybe I can stop long enough to write a couple of short stories.


  2. I concur with Abbie, and add “I shall not play any Internet/Facebook game — EVER!” I’ve ignored every “invitation” sent by well-meaning, game-playing friends; I’m not one of them, a trait I inherited from my parents. I’ve even rarely played Monopoly! 🙂


    1. You are so wise. My family played solitaire and Scrabble, and for years, except for my aunt’s vain attempt to teach me to play bridge, that was all I knew. Then a cousin showed me Bejeweled, and I was ruined. I go in spells, though. I hope this will end soon. Thanks for your comment.


  3. I don’t play internet games either, but a friend of mine is hooked now on some word game my teenage granddaughter showed her. I already waste too much time and get too distracted by all the emails I get on writing, etc. I just watched a video by a leading educator on dementia who said our working memory can hold 8 things and as more are added, the first drop off. That’s short term of course. I’m not sure I’m even still up to 8! So less distractions the better for me.


    1. My take on games is that you’d better stay away from teenagers. They can tell you why your software isn’t working (such as, because you clicked the wrong icon). But they’ll introduce you to things it’s best you not know about. I’m not sure I’m up to 8 either. My library assistant said one afternoon at quitting time that she’d just found materials for the project she’d started that morning right after the library opened. I was having the same problem. I wish I could forget Candy Crush.


  4. So funny. I am amazed at what you came up within 15 minutes, you gave us a grammar lesson, explained how teo play 2 or 3 games, and taught us session in procrastination. I play Candy Crush sometimes. I only allow myself one game at a time, I have 45 lives from friends right now. Before Candy Crush I played Words With Friends. I got tired of it and deleted it. Then added Candy Crush. I played Candy Crush about 5 years ago when I reloaded it I was right where I left off. So I’m giglimg as I head to play a game of Candy Crush. Cher’ley


  5. Cher’ley, to make sure you understand–the fifteen minutes referred to just the one 15-minute intermission I took between writing the last two paragraphs. The rest was written in all the other 15 minute intermissions I took while writing the post. The whole thing took forever.

    How do you limit yourself to one game? Seriously, I am addictive and that’s why it took me so long to try out Candy Crush. I was afraid this would happen and it did. Also, what version are you playing? I’m playing Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga; the latter has bears. If there’s a third version, I need to know, because I’m stuck on level 29 and am convinced I’ll never save that darned bear. (Furthermore, this is the dumbest game I’ve ever played.)


      1. I know if I want to get anything else done I’d better limit myself to one game at a time, so when I want to change games, I just uninstall the previous. I send the messages to everyone that pops up so I usually have lots of lives and I send lives before I play a game. I don’t have mine posting to FB so no o e knows when I’m playing. Seems like as soon as I say I’ll never get this is al I do. Also Bejeweled will put me right back where I stopped at when I re-install it. Cher’ley


  6. What I want to know is whether you listened to “Hospital Rag” and “The Salgado Show?” My argument with Candy Crush and other such as that is people who come to visit and then sit playing them while halfway in conversation. I seem to want full attention.


  7. I don’t do online games because i know once I start all is lost. I wouldn’t get photos scanned, words written or laundry done. But I am glad you are having fun.


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