A Safe Place to Play


The Reading National Laboratory is ten-story building, a third of which is below ground to reduce its visible mass, topped with a triple-height curved aluminium roof to hide the substantial plant. On the third floor is a perfectly symmetrical classroom furnished with white tiles, white walls, and a whiteboard directly in the center of the back wall. The tables, chairs, and toys are all colour coded. In the distance, there is the faint sound of the hum of equipment. It is the first dark morning of September.

TEACHER: Today, we’re going to play a game of ‘Snap’. Now, I’m going to lay down two cards in front of each of you, and if they match you say “snap”. Each time you get a match, I’ll give you a sticker to put on your sheet, and the winner will be the first person to collect all ten stars.

CHILD #1: I’ve played this before!

TEACHER: Have you? Well, we’ll do a practice just to make sure. So, here are your first cards… and they match.

CHILD #2: Unfair, she’s is already winning!

TEACHER: Come on now this is just a practice. Let’s see what happens when we play it for real.

On the opposite side of the whiteboard is a room. Although in this room the board is no longer a board, but a window, which allows three observers to watch the experiment. The first observer is Dr. Crick, head of the interaction department, whose presence is inescapable. He is a man of athletic build, average height, and a sturdy frame. The second two observers are his puppies, they scamper behind him brawling notes, and make the new adjustments in the lab.

OBSERVER #2: They’re incredible Dr, the competitive element is just what we needed.

OBSERVER #3: Excellent idea Dr, their playtime will be much more realistic now.

Dr. CRICK: Quiet now, let’s see just what happens when one starts to lose.

Meanwhile, in the classroom, the teacher has begun ‘Snap’ with the children. The cards have been placed in a particular order to ensure child #1 received all the winning hands at the start of the game. However, now the cards will start to play in child #2’s favor. This in order for Dr. Crick and his team to properly observe the effectiveness of their new competitive element. 

CHILD #1: Snap! I’ve only got three more stars to go.

TEACHER: Okay, well let’s see.

CHILD #2: Snap! Hehe, I got my first star.

Child #2 receives six more winning hands.

CHILD #1: Snap! I’m going to win, I’m going to win, I’m going to win.

CHILD #2: I never win! Not even when I play with my mum and dad.

On the other side of the wall.

Dr. CRICK: It’s astounding, they’re just like real children.

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