Cookie Clicker Conjecture

 In 2017, The year before, as The Fresh Prince once said, “My life got flipped-turned upside down,” I had been teaching 10th and 11th-grade writing/English/humanities classes at an independent school for students with ADHD and learning disabilities. While the first few years were a little rocky, and a very steep learning curve for me (I had to familiarize myself with that particular student population in terms of how to be supportive as well as learn the terminology like “dysgraphia” which is defined in Attitude Magazine as a condition that “interferes with practically all aspects of the writing process, including spelling, legibility, word spacing, and sizing, and expression.”) However, I also brought my insight to their instruction such as discussing whether or not Thunderdome from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome would be a suitable form of government. I didn’t show them the film or any clips, lest you get concerned; I just spoke about it with them. 

It was during a writing class period I heard two of my students hammering away on their keyboards, and I asked them what they were doing. They told me they were playing Cookie Clicker. While they probably shouldn’t have been playing said game; they had already finished their assignment. Plus, I was intrigued and asked what Cookie Clicker was? They explained it, though, the following is what I gleaned from Wikipedia. (However, when setting out to write an academic article about something, Wikipedia is not a trusted source). That being said, according to Wikipedia “The user initially clicks on a big cookie on the screen earning a single cookie per click. They can then spend their earned cookies upon purchasing assets such as “cursors” and other “buildings” that automatically produce cookies. Upgrades are also available and can improve the efficiency of clicks and buildings, among many other mechanics that allow the user to earn cookies in different ways.” The game never ends. The player can incrementally get more cookies to infinity. Players can also grow their base of operations to include grandmothers who bake, factories to produce, and time machines, which can retrieve cookies from the past or future. Of course, after I reminded those two students they probably had other work they could do, I quickly began playing the game myself. Later, when the student’s heard me relentlessly pressing buttons on my computer, and I confirmed I had indeed succumbed to the allure of the game, they were thrilled. Mr. Davie was now one of them. 

They may have never truly appreciated my reference to The Hawley Smoot Tariff Act speech from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but taking an interest in one of their hobbies had curried favor with them. At one point, I thought about using the game as an introduction to Goldbach’s Conjecture. Again, Wikipedia suggests Goldbach’s Conjecture is “An impossible mathematics proof…One of the oldest and best-known unsolved problems in number theory and all of mathematics.” I would try to explain it, but it’s way out of my wheelhouse. Numerous mathematicians have attempted to prove said theorem and failed, and I believe Faber and Faber, the publishing house, have offered a million dollars to anyone who can correctly solve it. I don’t remember where I first heard about Goldbach’s Conjecture, but most recently I saw a reference to it in the film Fermat’s Room, about a group of mathematicians who are lured to a boobytrapped house and must solve math equations to survive. 

I continued to play Cookie Clicker for the rest of the year, but eventually, students lost their enthusiasm for the game. Most, likely it had been replaced by something else just as Cookie Clicker had replaced the previous favorite game, before it. I continued to play for a little while longer, but I too lost enthusiasm for the game. 

I could have also used Cookie Clicker as a jumping-off point to discuss the concept of Hegel’s Dialectic in which an existing Thesis is overthrown by an Antithesis creating a Synthesis. That Synthesis eventually becomes the Thesis and the process begins again. For example, students enjoy playing Cookie Clicker rather than doing homework; The Thesis. Parents, the Antithesis, delete the game from the student’s computer creating a synthesis. Enough time goes by, and the student discovers a new game to download and play; a new Thesis. 

Some might wonder whether using Cookie Clicker as a teaching tool would be effective, but I’ve already managed to introduce Goldbach’s Conjecture, Hegelian Dialectics, The Hawley Smoot Tariff Act, and Thunderdome. Thunderdome doesn’t have anything to do with Cookie Clicker, but it’s still an important Geo-Political idea. 

Andrew Davie has worked in theater, finance, and education. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant and has survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He has published short stories at various places, a chapbook with The Daily Drunk, crime fiction novellas with All Due Respect and Close to the Bone, and an upcoming memoir. His other work can be found in links on his website

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