When researching my master’s thesis, Architecture that Affords Play, back in 1980, I learned that children and adults play for different reasons. Actually, they play for diametrically opposed reasons. Children play in order to gain mastery. Adults play to reinforce what we have already mastered. Therefore, it comes as not surprise that when I decided to end the Games of August series by exploring a new an online game through the search, “Top Internet Games” I bypassed all the games that required shooting, dexterity, or speed; attributes at which I never excelled and that continue to decline as middle-age deepens. Instead I selected a geography game. It was labeled as one of the 13 hardest games on the Internet, but that reflects our society’s ignorance of geography more than the actual difficulty of the game.
The premise of 50 States is simple. A green outline of the United States floats in a sea of blue. Sorry, Canada and Mexico, rising seas have eliminated you. The shape of a state appears above the map. You place your cursor on it and drag it to the correct place. Florida is first. Then Montana, followed by California and Vermont. The initial states all border the blue, which makes them easy to place. South Dakota touches part of Montana, and so it goes. Each state that pops up has some registration with what precedes. The program tells me how accurate I am in my placement. After locating six states, I am accurate within eight miles. This seems preposterous, considering I am working on a 6”x8” map of a country that is 3,000 miles long. New Hampshire, Nebraska, Oregon. Then I get Missouri. I misplace its connection to Nebraska by a squiggle of the Missouri River, less than 100 miles, but enough to register as an error.
From then on I place every state correctly, and eventually wind up with a 2-mile rate of error.
I feel good about myself, so I play again. This time the computer knows I’m a U.S. geography whiz, so what state do I get first? Kansas. I am 71 miles off. The distance I pedal on a good day’s bike ride. I recover from my snafu and place the rest within five minutes so accurately I wind up with only a 1-mile error deviation.
The third time is the charm. I place all states correctly, and even though I have to aim Wyoming and Missouri without any adjacencies, I have 0-mile placement error. Which proves I am an adult, since when I play, I like to do what I already know.