Solitaire, computers and motorcycles

The other day I was sitting at the dinner table with a deck of cards. Not sure what led up to this. I had a long solitaire-playing period many years ago when I lived at the farm, playing solitaire for at least an hour a night, just sitting, drinking tea, shuffling, laying the foundation, dealing cards three at a time - you know, solitaire.

Not that I had given up the game. I'd played it a lot since the farm. But not with cards.

Playing solitaire on the computer has a lot going for it. It's the most popular of all computer games. It's so wonderfully orderly - the cards always so well-stacked, the piles so even, the dealing so automated. There are hundreds of variations, each so easy to learn. There are pleasing sound effects, sometimes spectacular "reward displays" when you win a game. There are games that come with in-depth statistics, tracking how many times you've played what, and how often you've won.

But playing with an actual deck of cards, the wonderful sound and feel of shuffling, the ritual of laying the cards out to start the game, and, for me, above all, the opportunity to cheat, in so many instructively soul-searching ways. Aside from the sensory engagement, there's a freedom you get when you're playing with real cards that is completely unlike the experience of playing on the computer.

Playing solitaire on a computer is like driving a car on a freeway. You get your speed, ease, comfort, predictability. Playing with real cards, however, is like driving a motorcycle on a back road. You get your freedom.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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