Reading Dr. McPherson’s article Reload: Liveness, Mobility, and the Web got me reminiscing about an old game I used to play in elementary/middle school—the Wiki Game. While the game is not connected to televisual pleasures, I found myself latching onto some of the ideas around the user’s mobility through navigable data space, as well as scan-and-search as a shifting form of engagement. Dr. McPherson quotes N. Katherine Hayles noting that “digital data is ‘instrinsically more involved in issues of mapping and navigation’ than most other media” (202). The game itself highlights a lot of the concepts stated in the article, such as the Web as “a fly-through infoscape, a navigable terrain of spatialized data” (203), and it emphasizes the shift from a glance-or-gaze mode of visual engagement towards the scan-and-search.
I learned of the game back in the early 2000s in computer class. It was around the time that I assume teaching the skills around basic computer systems and digital platforms, as well as early development of basic motor and procedural functions (typing, shortcuts, commands) was deemed a necessary proficiency to transmit to adolescents hoping to integrate themselves into a modern workforce. When having finished the class’s exercise for the day, or possibly deciding I didn’t want or need to do it, I played the Wiki Game with my friends. Although the game was used as reward for after work or distraction from doing the work, it essentially operated as its own kind of pedagogical apparatus, teaching its players how to quickly and efficiently navigate visual/textual data. It forced its players to organize strategies around terminological, cultural, historical, and theoretical associations. It encouraged the ability to rapidly scan-and-search pages for vital information, while incorporating and utilizing certain console/keyboard commands to expedite the process.
The game is very simple. Either decide collectively on a random Wikipedia article or let Wikipedia generate it for you. Then repeat the step again. The game then becomes reaching random article two from random article one using only the hyperlinks within the webpage. The game has several variations. The winner of a speed game is determined by whoever gets to the second article first; while the winner of a click challenge is the one who reaches article two in the fewest clicks. There are other more specialized versions of the game like “5 Clicks to Jesus” or “How Many Clicks to Hitler.” There is also a version that bans the use of the United States wiki page as a kind of gateway or access point to other pages. Being one of the most in-depth articles on Wikipedia, with tons and tons of tangential hyperlinks, some players, hoping to make the game more difficult, like to remove it as a dependency.
For those interested in playing the game, the game has been developed into an app and it’s own website.
Also, maybe as a fun exercise, we could play a round in class tomorrow. Not everyone brings a laptop, so we could form teams I guess. It's always interesting and funny to see how people get from one random article to another, and the logic behind it.