If I haven’t mentioned it before, let me praise Geoguessr. It’s one of my favorite things to do on the internet, especially with friends on a weekend night, me streaming the game I’m playing, so everyone can watch and try and figure out where we are.

The premise of the game is: you are in Google Street View somewhere. You can’t see any metadata, just the panoramic photos around you. You can click around wherever you want (unless you’re trapped in a stationary panorama, which occasionally happens). You have a map open in the corner of the screen, and your goal is to drop a pin on that map and identify where you are in street view. Perfect score is 5000 points. Thinking you’re on a mountain in Colorado and clicking there when you are actually in Antarctica is 0 points. Not that that’s ever happened to me.

We usually play by our own hardcore set of rules: no outside information. No googling the name of anything. Just what you can see in front of you and what you can figure out from looking at the little map in the corner. (My co-players look at Google maps, which are the same thing. But without doing any searching, just scrolling around and zooming.)

Normally you get dropped down 5 different places in the world and have to locate where you are on a map for each of those. 5 random places that happen to have street view. This includes a lot of places, and excludes a lot. There’s very little in China, and only a handful of African countries have street view. Austria has plenty; Germany very little. For some reason we show up in Singapore a LOT, to the point that it’s easy to recognize just from the neighborhoods or highways. There’s lots of street view in the Baltics, in the Balkans, most of Europe in fact, Scandinavia, lots of South America (pity the player who knows little more than that they’re “in Brazil”…), lots of Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia & NZ… Luxembourg and Andorra, but I don’t think Liechtenstein and Monaco… never been to the Vatican either.

There are special maps with themes you can choose from instead of the general “anywhere in the world”. Like “I Saw The Sign” where you will be plopped down in front of a sign which is the name of the town you’re at. If you don’t google, that doesn’t help as much as you might think! Or “Where’s That McDonalds” where you’re plopped down in front of a McDonalds somewhere in the world.

And who could forget “Bunkers of Albania” or “Extra-Rural Mongolia.”

I’ve learned so incredibly much about what the world looks like this way. (Not what it sounds like, or smells like, but at least what it looks like.) I’ve learned all kinds of tells. (Like: if it’s got runic letters like thorn and edh, then it’s probably Iceland, unless it’s all islandy-mountainy, in which case it’s the Faroe Islands.) Or: if you think you’re in Scandanavia, then if you see umlaut ä and ö you’re in Sweden (or Finland but Finnish looks nothing like Swedish), if you see ø and ash, you’re either in Norway or Denmark. If it looks scenic and gorgeous, it’s Norway. If it looks like it could be part of the boring suburban/rural Midwest USA, it’s Denmark. (Sorry, Denmark. You’re super boring looking next to Norway.)

More tells… if you see Cyrillic, you could be in a number of places. Russian and Bulgarian use the same alphabet. Bulgarian usually looks tidier and more European, and has more Cyrillic/Latin double script signs. Ukrainian uses the letter I, which Russia doesn’t. Mongolia has lots of double vowels, and occasionally uses a character that looks like a theta. Balkan Cyrillic-users like Serbia have a few special letters which look like they have a small letter b attached to them.

Good luck telling Malaysian and Indonesian apart, I sure can’t. Burmese looks like Elvish. If it looks like it can’t make up its mind whether it’s French or Spanish, it might be Catalan and you might be in that part of Spain. If you see signs that are bilingual in French and in some crazy language you can’t identify at all, you’re probably in Brittany looking at Breton. If you see Italian, you’re definitely in Italy, unless you’re in an Italian speaking part of Switzerland, or if you’re in Albania looking at signs which are there for tourists.

URLs are often a dead giveaway, but if you see one on a truck there’s always the chance it drove there from another country…. Flags are a godsend, if you know your flags.

Sorry, I’m getting lost in the weeds. Anyway it’s a wonderful adventure, and it’s one of the most educational games I’ve ever played.

Also I have vacation destinations in mind I never would have otherwise. Albania seems chill and beautiful and nice for tourists. (Plus you’re never far from a cold war bunker in case you need to hide from invading NATO forces.. or these days, Russia). Croatia and Slovenia are gorgeous too. If I want absolute mind-blowing beauty, Norway or even the Faroes. The Baltics seem really nice too! I’d totally chill in Latvia. Outside of Europe, well, I haven’t gotten a real “I want to be a tourist here” vibe out of any African countries, I’m afraid. Though South Africa and friends (Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho etc), Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal all look interesting. Thailand seems super pleasant. So does Chile.

There are so many stories I could tell (and screenshots I could share) about the weird, weird stuff we’ve seen out there on worldwide Street view, or the epic successes we’ve had in some of the unlikeliest circumstances (and the epic failures, as well).

It’s so good. You can play once a day without a paid membership or as many times as you want with one.

Highly recommended.

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