nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk) wrote,

The road is long, and probably in South America

I have a new time-sink, and its name is Geoguessr. This ' web-based geographic discovery game' (Wikipedia) involves being plonked down anywhere in the world that Google Street View has been* and having to guess where you are and mark you location on a map of the world. You can (usually) navigate along the streets**, you can read (most) road signs, but not things that Google has blurred (occasionally road signs), and most of all you can look about you and wonder where you might be.

It's a lot of fun, and depending on how much you care about finding where exactly you are in any given round of five places, potentially a major waste of time. Playing alone, I am inclined to set a max of 5 minutes per location, sometimes less when I think "This is the middle of a desert/forest with nothing for several hundred miles, I feel strangely confident that I know which continent we're on, so I'm just going to click somewhere plausible in Australia/Russia", a technique that can get you surprisingly close at times for not just random reasons. It's fascinating to see the places that you go, but I also find the process of guessing is itself interesting. The combination of personal experience of a place, general knowledge, random osmosis, and the kind of hunch that has you going 'That looks like Hungary' despite having a decidedly limited acquaintance with Hungary. Place names on road signs are great - well, major place names, the ones for tiny villages in Siberia are less useful - but nothing beats the screen opening and just somehow knowing that you're in Norway.*** And if you don't know where you are, there are vast numbers of clues, natural and artificial. Skies, clouds, vegetation, season, the local people, crops, domestic architecture, economic situation, anything being advertised, things not being advertised. Sometimes you can just tell, thanks to that one school geography lesson that taught you about Brasilia, sometimes you haven't got a clue. It is often infuriating, and still a lot of fun.

*South America would have a lot more competition in the 'Where on earth is this beyond South America?' stakes if they had done more of Africa or any of China yet.

**Except when you find yourself plonked down in a random field, and Indian temple, or a German kitchen shop.

*** Except for being on a street you used to walk down between the pub and the Cambridge railway station.

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Tags: geography
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