A Game for the Person Who Doesn't Game

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Maryn

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I'm not a person who enjoys gaming, but I cannot resist the lure of Geoguessr. We started playing it with our adult kids when they visited, and recently Mr. Maryn and The Kid figured out a way to play remotely, both self-isolating households seeing the same view.

It's not a game of skill or strategy but of research skills. (Know any writers? They've got those.) The player is dropped onto a road that's been recorded by Google Maps on street view (which means some parts of the world never appear). You "drive" using street view's directional pointers, and you and the other players attempt to figure out where you are. You seek highway or street signs, interpret billboards in many languages, research the trees or crops you see, guess location based on terrain and soil color, study mountain ranges or bodies of water, note the company names on trash bins or newspaper boxes, search the name of the boat you see that didn't get blurred out (as license plates do), and otherwise try to figure out your exact location when you were dropped off.

Kids old enough to use computers, phones, or notebooks can play, and we suspect high school and college kids would excel at this kind of research. ("That's a speed limit sign in Norway!" or "Wait, I think that's Tamil...")

Beginners in the US should probably start with the US-only game, which is more than sufficient challenge. Our very best round ever, we were less than three feet from our mark, in rural Missouri.

Maryn, all-time high score 4996 of 5000
 
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Maryn

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Switch to the US and you'll be good again. Really, it's so much better. We like to do it with multiple devices going and someone taking notes. (first mile marker 304, numbers getting larger, East and Spruce streets intersect, house in front of white water tower...) More than half the time somebody wants to know what the area code was on that billboard we passed or the name of the plumbing truck. So I've got multiple tabs open on a PC and whoever's driving has their iPad going in addition to the game.

Which brings us to something weird we've had happen multiple times. Two devices, both up to date on apps and programs, show the same maps on Google Maps, but switch to satellite view and they don't have the same image. We couldn't believe it when we held them side by side and he had a row of eight houses and I had one completed house and seven empty lots.

We decided to stop doing the international ones after twice in one game the quality made success impossible. In one, we were in India, but saw no signs, house numbers, billboards, or anything. There was one store, a concrete building selling packaged food, which is how we confirmed India, but after a half hour we got frustrated. On the other one, we knew it was Scandinavia somewhere, but the image quality was so fuzzy that what signs there were you couldn't read, no matter what angle or how much you zoomed. Just blurs.

Some day, we hope to get one where we go, "Hey, that's X. We've been there!"
 

H.L.Dyer

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There's actually a twitch streamer who is a writer and he sometimes uses Geoguessr locations as prompts to write scene description. It's pretty interesting reading what the other viewers also came up with.
 

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I've spent enough time at work messing around in Google Earth that I can usually narrow it down to a country if I'm dropped in a city or town: you learn to recognise the difference between, say, Peruvian and Bolivian vernacular architecture. I'm amazed at people like GeoWizard who can find random rural roads in Kenya with sub-metre accuracy. That guy is a machine. And an utter madman. Check out his relentlessly cheerful attempts to walk in straight lines across various countries regardless of hazards like quicksand and high speed trains. He's gunna get killed one day, but he'll do it affably somehow.
 

mrsmig

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Ooo, thanks for the recommend, Maryn! I just spent the last hour playing, and will recommend it to a sister who loves travel and research.
 

Maryn

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It's changed the way I look around when we travel, or where my attention is while watching a movie. All of a sudden I'm paying attention to the color of the dirt, the kinds of trees and weeds by the road, and road signs and markings.
 
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mrsmig

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I'm now hooked on Geoguessr. My favorite thing to do is to pick a topic - right now I'm working on "lighthouses" - to see if there are games focused on that topic. And there are! "Lighthouses of Scotland" is my current favorite. So many gorgeous views and places to wonder about. Thanks again for the recommend, Maryn.
 

Maryn

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I'm so glad you're enjoying it! Do you play it alone or with others? I'm not terribly good on my own. I prefer it if someone else "drives" and I'm the recording secretary jotting down what everyone's figured out, as well as figuring out things on my own.

It's no surprise that Mr. Maryn's unerring sense of direction is enormously helpful to him, and my lack of any leads me far from the spot.
 
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mrsmig

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I'm so glad you're enjoying it! Do you play it alone or with others? I'm not terribly good on my own. I prefer it if someone else "drives" and I'm the recording secretary jotting down what everyone's figured out, as well as figuring out things on my own.

It's no surprise that Mr. Maryn's unerring sense of direction is enormously helpful to him, and my lack of any leads me far from the spot.
I play alone (the husband has no interest).

I have absolutely no sense of direction, but I don't get too wrapped up in identifying the EXACT spot and I don't care much about the score. As long as I've correctly identified the spot and I'm in striking distance, I'm happy.

It's certainly piqued my interest in virtual tourism. I plopped myself down in Patagonia this morning and "drove" around. I felt extra special when I passed a flock of sheep.
 

Maryn

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I tend to get all excited when I see people in native garb, too. And alpacas.
 

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