The free online game created by Pittsburgh’s ImpactGames for education giant Rand McNally uses an interactive map, real-time polling and fun mini games to teach kids about the electoral college voting system. Although it’s just been introduced, we can already predict that today’s kids will react to Play the Election the same way kids in the 90s reacted when their science teacher rolled into class with the school television and popped in a Bill Nye VHS (or laserdisc if you were really lucky). In other words, they’re going to feel like they hit the learning lottery.

Let’s be honest, America’s voting system isn’t exactly straightforward. Need proof? Ask the nearest adult to explain it to you and watch as their eyes glass over. The electoral college system is complicated, and that means that like all complicated things, it can either be frustrating or fascinating depending on your perspective. The purpose of Play the Election is to catch kids while they’re curious, before their confusion morphs them into politically apathetic adults.

With an easy-to-navigate site, eye-catching graphics and an array of interactive elements, the learning game will help kids understand the political process and get them geared up in time for the 2012 Presidential Election. Here are just some of the features Rand McNally highlighted in their press release this week:

Key Features of “Play the Election” Digital Learning Game

  • Interactive electoral map – Breaks down the Electoral College by state, details past election results, real-time polling data, election-related headlines, and more.
  • Digital Mini-Games – Students can choose from eleven different mini-games that reinforce key concepts of the election, delve deeper into the issues of influential and battleground states, and tie core civics curriculum to current events.
  • Standards-aligned lesson plans – Professionally-created lesson plans for educators that cover key aspects of the 2012 Election, the Electoral College, and major debates.
  • Student Access – Each student creates their own unique profile that allows them to save and edit their own electoral map, play and track their progress through the games, and see how their answers stack up against those of others in their class or the country.
  • Create Your Own Games – Teachers can create their own mini-games to reinforce key concepts or to teach new, related events.

The learning game even comes with a resource center for teachers. The lesson plan rubrics teachers will find there meet Common Core Standards, meaning social sciences and history teachers won’t have to struggle or compromise class time to incorporate Play the Election into their daily school day. That’s good news for teachers and even better news for students who are sure to become quick fans of the engaging game.

Think Play the Election sounds cool? That’s because it is — and if you don’t believe the Spark network experts, you can head over to the Rand McNally’s website to play for yourself. But be warned — it is slightly addicting. If you’re the kind of adult who’d gladly spend two straight hours playing the original version of Oregon Trail, then Play the Election stands a chance of stealing your entire afternoon. Hey, maybe that’s a good thing. Put in your time now and by the time the 2012 Presidential Election rolls around, who knows? You might just feel like an electoral expert.