How to Take Over the World (and Make Women Hate Chocolate!)

Lately, I’ve been reminded of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that probably first aired 25 years ago, but I’ve never forgotten. In this episode (can’t remember what it’s called), an alien race gave the crew of the Enterprise a gift of a virtual reality game. The game consisted of a headset, which created a heads-up display of sorts for the wearer, of a field of balls that the player mentally directed toward a funnel. Over and over. That’s all there was to it, sort of like the falling blocks in Tetris. Absurdly simple, yet the game caught on like crazy, and before long, nearly every person aboard the Enterprise was sporting one of the game headsets.

Taking over the world is so much easier than The Brain ever thought!

Taking over the world is so much easier than The Brain ever thought!

Only this “gift” turned out to be more of a Trojan horse. In actuality, as the players grew more addicted, they could be controlled through the game. It was a plot to enslave the entire population of the Enterprise through a bloodless coup. All that saved the ship was the fact that a few weren’t into the game, one of whom was Captain Piccard.

Ever since I first saw that episode, it’s fascinated me – could such a thing happen in reality? I think the answer is yes – and it’s closer than we think. For example, talk at the lunch table has taken a shift in recent weeks. After everyone’s done eating, talk no longer stays focused on the usual topics of sex, having babies, healthy (or not-so-healthy) eating, working out, or Young Diva’s fitness modeling competition. Instead, everyone whips out their cell phones and conversation dwindles to something like this:

“What level are you on?”

“I’m stuck on Level 65. You?”

“I’m on Level 189.”

“I can’t get anyone to give me more lives.”

“You need to disconnect from Facebook, so you can play quests.”

“Yeah, but you can only do one of those a day.”

“I change the date on my tablet, then I change it back.”

“UGH! This stupid chocolate is taking over the whole field!”

…and so on.

Looks so innocent, doesn't it?

Looks so innocent, doesn’t it?

If you’ve been sucked in, you know I’m talking about Candy Crush Saga! It even makes women (and men) hate chocolate, as in Candy Crush, chocolate is an obstacle. Probably the most popular casual game going right now, you can play it on Facebook, or on Android and Apple mobile devices. It could certainly take over the world, IMO. Out of the six Lunch Divas (one of whom is actually a Diva-dude), only Manager Diva  hasn’t yet been sucked in. Fortunately, there is a saving grace, and she doesn’t need to play Captain Piccard: once you get past a dozen or so levels, they get difficult enough that it’s hard to finish one without dying several times. And there are only three ways to get more lives:

  1. Pay (not sure how much, as I don’t do this)
  2. Bug your friends on Facebook (I don’t do this, either)
  3. Wait (anywhere from a few minutes to a half hour or more per life)

ROW80Logo175I choose #3, so this keeps me from wasting my writing time blowing up candy. That’s a good thing, as I did well on my ROW80 goals this week:

  • 2000 words on new ms – Yes! Got 2500!
  • 4 workouts – Yes!

This week, my daughter leaves for college. So it’s time to raise the bar a bit, and add a couple things I’ve been neglecting:

  • 3000 words on new ms
  • 4 workouts
  • One chapter in estate planning book
  • Spend 15 minutes decluttering something, anything!

What about you – do you play Candy Crush? If not, have you noticed odd silences among your friends and coworkers who are even more attached than before to their phones and tablets? Have you seen that episode of Star Trek TNG I’m talking about? Do you think Candy Crush could take over the world? Any tips on beating Level 65? 😀 And whether or not you’ve managed to avoid it so far, how are you doing on any goals you might have, ROW80 or otherwise? Please share – I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

My Addiction: Time Management… Games!

OK, it’s confession time. No, this is not why Time’s Fugitive is late, but… okay, it might have contributed to it, earlier on. It is one reason why I don’t watch TV. Or if I do, it’s looking up from my computer, where I’m writing, emailing, on HootSuite, or…

It all started with an intrepid waitress named Flo

I admit it. Playing games. I’m addicted. Ironically, to time management games.

For the uninitiated, these usually feature a character doing a job like waitressing or running a small farm, and you have to run the character through all sorts of tasks that must be done quickly, and in a specific order. In the Diner Dash series, and also Emily’s Delicious, another of my favorites, you work at different restaurants. You have to hand out menus, take orders, sometimes fix food, take it to the customers, collect money, and so on. There are different types of customers who have differing patience levels, and if they leave early, you loose points/money (in the game, not real money). If you don’t make enough money in the allotted time, you fail the level. As the levels go on, difficulty and complexity of the tasks increases.  There is a story that goes along with it, usually told in cut scenes between levels or major game segments. They’re fairly pedestrian – after all, it’s about the game play – but some of them are cute. What my husband finds most ironic about my addiction to these games is that they’re about people doing jobs I would be horrible at!

In the Farm Frenzy series, you play as Scarlet, who has farms all over the place - and in time!

It was way too easy to get caught up in this. It all started several years ago, when MSN Games offered Diner Dash 2 for free. Yes, it was online-only – as in, a tiny screen in a web browser window. And there are commercials between levels. But free! And legal! I was hooked. Eventually, I finished out the game, only to find that… it wasn’t finished. MSN only offered nine levels on the free, online game, then wanted to sell you a downloadable game. For $19.95, which I couldn’t justify.

Then I found, where they offer the full, downloadble versions of dozens of games, FREE. Like the MSN trial online version, these have commercials between levels, but they don’t bother me. (With the commercials, I know the developers are being paid, and that’s something I have a vested interest in.) Sure enough, they had Diner Dash – and if I wanted it without commercials, it’s only 6.99 on Gamehouse.  There are many to choose from. Not just time management games, but hidden objects, puzzles, arcade games. All designed to be played in short bursts (hence the name casual games, as opposed to something long-term, like Everquest or WoW).

"It's good to work toward my dream," Emily says. Ummm.... yeah. Now I need to go work on mine.

I don’t stop writing to watch TV. But I do, sometimes, stop to play a round of Farm Frenzy–gotta make that cheese! Which invariably becomes two rounds. Or three. Or… well, you get it.

So there is my big time management challenge… time management games. I’ve been good lately, but it’s involved a great deal of restraint. I don’t let myself play games until after I’ve done a set amount of work on my writing, done my workout for the day, taken care of paperwork or whatever else needs to be done around the house, checked and responded to email and so on. But sometimes I do slip up and play before the work is done. Then I get back to the work, and it’s that much longer before it’s finished. I admit, I had to get in a round of Delicious: Emily’s Tea Garden before writing this blog – and now it’s 10:30 PM. But the writing got done first!

So tell me. Do you like casual games, and if so, which ones? Or are you more into the more involved games, or… not at all – maybe your addiction is something else, like TV? Is it an effort for you to stay away from your addiction until you get things done? Please share, and tell me I’m not alone! I’ll stop back later… after I’ve served some customers!