Unexpectedly, some of the games were bizarrely difficult.
We knew newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's ascent would bring change to the country, but none could have expected this: At some point since the Oct 19 Canadian federal election, the Flash-based "Interactive Zone," which featured games and other edutainment on the official website of Canada's leader, was deleted.
The "Zone" was where young Canadians could log on and match national icons, name our provinces and territories, and even colour in the Canadian flag and other symbols. These strange digital relics offer a unique perspective on a government trying to figure out how to connect with its people and not really succeeding.
Unexpectedly, they got bizarrely difficult, but I will get to that later.
This move looks like it occurred at the same time as an entire overhaul of the new PM's online presence. The other artifacts that didn't survive the content cull, unsurprisingly, include the videos and accolades of the previous Harper administration.
Fortunately, the games are still playable via the Internet Archive's WayBack Machine.
Capital Scramble was the first item in the original list of games described as educational fun. It features a country awash in blue on a yellow sea. When you successfully identified the correct location of a dragged province name, the area would turn orange.
After you label the regional administrations, you're presented with a word scramble where you have to rearrange the letters to spell out all the provincial capitals. We did not pick easy names –five out of the 12 possible answers have more than ten letters in their names. Pop quiz for non-Canadians: can you solve NEFCDEIORT? I didn't think so.
Next up we have a chance to fill in various patriotic symbols called Colouring Book. In grade school, I never appreciated not needing to colour in the tiny stars and narrow lines on an American flag, as Canada's banner is the epitome of simplicity:
Now, they're making you pay for that convenience as both the coat of arms, and the official Provincial flowers were part of the selection of potential colouring challenges:
The third challenge on the page was Concentrate on Canada, where hockey sticks, the Bluenose, and moose are among the Canadiana you have to memorize and match in pairs. As you pick away at the six-by-six grid, you reveal a blue Canada punctuated by symbols that represent unique cultural elements from each region. It's easy to see why the Canadian economy is suffering so badly with the tumbling petroleum prices when an oil derrick is used to signify Alberta's cultural contribution.
The last game, Flag Finish Line, was my greatest challenge. While it wasn't The Witness, trying to remember what tiny doohickey was missing in our provincial flags was surprisingly difficult. It took me almost a minute to fit six small details in the pennants of the selected provinces.
So considering all this, if you were amongst the young target audience browsing the Official Website of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, you most likely had larger problems and should probably have put down the computer. Not forgetting the fact that the games were created using Flash, which Adobe has asked everyone on the internet to stop using, it may be a good thing the Interactive Zone was retired by the new government.
The Prime Minister's office declined to comment for this story.