Does Switzerland have Google Streetview ? Do they ever use KPH on street signs in the United States, or is MPH like, federally dictated? Even in Oregon? Is there any good way to tell the difference between highways in South Africa versus Australia?
These are the kind of questions raised by Geoguessr, an excellent new distraction from the whiz kids who brought us ‘heroin.’ Well, not really, but it’s almost as addictive but with few of the negative side effects. The basic idea is that it randomly drops you somewhere in the world in Google Streetview but with no map. The goal is to figure out where you are. You can move around, but going too far is tedious because you only have the little clicky arrows, and can’t drag your yellow person to somewhere else—so you’re really forced to rely on your wits. Street signs, area codes on ads, anything out of the ordinary.
It gives you a good sense of how most places in the world look essentially the same, and then just a general idea of what distant places are actually like. The best place I’ve gotten so far though was Midway Atoll, (where Google evidently sent a camera a few years ago in some kind of “look at the weird places you can use Streetview! A submarine? No way!). Midway is completely covered in seabirds (there are hundreds in every direction), has no regular cars (only golf carts), pre-fab housing and satellite dishes everywhere, and about 40 Midwayans posed for the camera in a group—staring through the GoogleMaps page like an episode of the Twilight Zone.
You gradually get a sense of certain things about the parts of the world that currently have streetview images. Canada and the Western US are universally annoying, because it is usually possible to get them…but only after scrolling down the highway for 5 minutes until you see a sign. As are the empty parts of South Africa and Australia….and they look similar and both drive on the wrong side of the road, so if you guess on one that you think is one of those, it is always the other. Japan and Russia are completely unsolvable—only by landing next to a monument to some Soviet general was I able to locate myself in Russia. I popped up near a tourist attraction in Japan once…and still got it wrong. You need real letters, not those squiggly ones they use in those places. Also, there are a lot of places in Brazil, and they are always full of people. Isn’t geography fun? In any case, well done Geoguessr, you have so much to teach us.