GeoGuessr: an Unexpected Journey

GeoGuessr is an online game based on Google Street View. Players are presented with a random street view perspective and have to guess on the map where they are. It is a simple concept to say the least, but one that saw surprising growth, especially during the lockdowns of Covid-19. Indeed, while the game first went online in 2013 it became very popular in 2021, to the point of hosting tournaments with international players competing for prizes in thousands of USD.

Screenshot of GeoGuesser

The effort deployed by said players to attain such performances cannot be underestimated. Besides memorizing an insane amount of landmarks and monuments, it is not uncommon for them to learn new languages to be able to read an inconspicuous sign on the side of an empty road in the middle of nowhere. Knowing there are hundreds of languages used around the world, one can recognize the dedication needed to become a pro player. Other techniques employed include learning the architectural and urban design features typical of a region or city, or even looking at the vehicles on the roads as some of them are exclusive to certain countries. The lengths that people go to guess their location the fastest way possible and thus get the best score are nothing short of astounding.

There are though some drawbacks and shortcomings to the game. The first is simply the uneven worldwide coverage of Google Street View that is especially lacking in Africa and Central and West Asia. There are also concerns about the easiness of cheating in competitive playing, making it harder for the game to go on full e-sport scale. The future will tell us if things can evolve even further and help people travel from their own PC.

Global Coverage of Google Street View (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


#98: How a 2013 Browser Game Made Its Comeback

Using GeoGuessr in the Classroom