GeoGuessr is a geographic discovery game designed by Anton Wallén. Released on the 9th May 2013, I doubt Anton had in mind the powerful escapism the game offers those stuck in seemingly never ending lockdowns. The game has provided me a gamified gateway to the wider world that I am very grateful for.
A perfect pandemic game
The game has been such a fun escape from lockdown; challenging my world knowledge and appreciation of the minutiae of different cultures and places. Viewing how others live, challenging your geographical knowledge and what beautiful landscapes the world can just drop you in randomly, are real pleasures taken from all of us by the pandemic. GeoGuessr gives us all a glimpse of the world we had before, where in a few hours we could really be on that beach in Morocco. As we all live more and more through digital interfaces, it is nice to have a computer game that places the outdoors at its heart.
Thankfully during this pandemic we have digital technology to keep us connected. I am grateful that it was Covid in 2019+ not SARS in 2003 that was the big pandemic, because (as well as SARS being much more deadly) online and digital technology was nowhere near ready to deal with the digitalisation of our lives today. Although we are all stuck in front of screens at home, at least we are able to get a high definition picture of the wider world, including being able to video chat family and friends, and work somewhat effectively.
What is GeoGuessr?
“GeoGuessr places the player on a series of five algorithmically determined semi-random locations around the world. Once the player is ready to guess the location, they will place a location marker on a zoomable map. After the placed marker is submitted as a guess, GeoGuessr reveals the true geographic location and assigns the player a score depending on how far away the player’s guess was from the true location” – Wikipedia
The scope of the game covers the places in the world mapped by Google streetview, the scale is enormous and you will never get the same spot twice. There is also another whole world to the game, within the internal dynamics of how you can play. You can play across the whole world, specific countries or certain sites, you can play it casually (but tryhard) like me, take it really seriously and go for leader boards, you can allow for scrolling and moving, or play restricted only allowing yourself 5 seconds without moving. There is such a range of possibilities it is hard to get bored by the platform.
I have even been making videos of me playing the game. Inspired by @geowizard, a fantastic YouTuber who helped popularise the game; the ability to share a journey around the world is wonderful.
The fun of the game arguably increases as you learn more tricks, from the sun’s location to road markings. There is an incentive to learn alphabets, languages and cultural tipoffs to become a more capable guesser. It is one of the first games I have ever played (outside of the classic pub quiz) where geographical, cultural and general knowledge have been so valuable.
Then there are deeper considerations, ecological markers, geology and demographics can help discern the location. See the video below from GeoWizard below, a master of the craft, he isn’t even one of the best in the community, and yet he can guess off markers such as soil types.
GeoGuessr is also a fantastic learning tool that widens the appreciation of where you are in the world, as well as the incredible diversity seen across planet earth. Its classroom use is somewhat mixed, but it has been becoming much more popular lately on TikTok, bringing geography to a younger audience than YouTube. It also shines a light on the inequality seen across the globe, one second you can be next to Yachts in Saint Tropez and the next in a favela in Rio de Janiero.
GeoGuessr in my opinion expands minds, spurs curiosity and develops appreciation for the world; the best (and greenest) solution for doing so in an era of lockdowns and banned international travel.
The game is wonderful and I have enjoyed playing it, and if you haven’t heard of it, give it a go. You can play one free game a day, as unfortunately (but understandably) they monetized it a few years ago. I would also thoroughly recommend playing it with your loved ones.