In April 2013, a Swedish software engineer named Anton Wallen posted on Reddit. “I was walking around the backbone and Google Maps API v3 and decided to make a small application,” he wrote. “Appreciate your feedback / suggestions?” Wallen recently created GeoGuessr, a game that takes you to random places in Google Street View and challenges you to guess where you are. The rules are simple: the closer you get to the prediction, the higher the score. You have to face the “seed” of five places for the possible prize of a maximum of twenty five thousand points and the solution of the pub-quiz, each worth five thousand points.

GeoGuessr utilizes a strange, slow-burning charm, creating something of a treasure hunt and a goalless Google Earth globe in the middle of a crossword. It exploded in popularity soon after its release, and then again last year, when many of us were stuck at home. The game’s appeal is due in part to the viral demise of the Geoguer Playthrough, or perhaps to some extent, in which a streamer narrates their predictions and strategies, often reacting to the stupidity of a place (say, a ridiculously unimportant part of the prairie) or a predisposition to prediction, or catastrophic failure (no , Not Mongolia). A performance stood out: the record-setting, run by a 31-year-old Englishman named Tom Davis, known as the GeoWizard, was to become one of the most famous geoguer players on the Internet.

Davis’s game begins with an image of a crowded urban street, with red dust scattering from the sidewalk. The sky is overcast. The women are walking, the weight on their heads is balanced and someone is selling household items — umbrellas, kettles on the side of the road. Nearby fences are decorated with colorful signs. “Again in Ghana, I believe,” Davis says in a matter of seconds. In his soft West Midlands accent (he was born in Oxford, but grew up near Birmingham), Davis mentions a car that appears to be Frankenstein made of spare parts of different colors, turning from the intersection, apparently characteristic of Ghana. He also notes yellow license plates, and, in one of his rare signals of baseball inside the geoguser, called the predictor “meta”, such signs are wrapped in black tape wrapped around the roof of the Google Street View truck. . He zooms in on the symbols – he’s playing on the street or down to increase the difficulty – and he’s referred to as “Gyinyase, KSI”. “Does KSI mean … Kumasi?” Davis surprises the average viewer with a surprisingly well-known prediction. “I think so.” He lowers his own skills by adding, “By the way, I’m not sure about that, but I think it’s worth finding out.” In the lower left corner, you can see that there is a confused look on his face; His forehead is flushed and he is biting his lower lip. He builds a house on what he thinks is right. “I’m going for it,” he says. But then he holds himself back. “No, that’s the wrong attitude.” After looking a little further, he finds it almost right – 2.2 miles from the exact location. An impressive outing, of course, but the next round is ridiculous. “Wow, wow – for God’s sake, wow!” Davis goes out of his way to admire the scenic village by the sea, using his usual populist utterances (which alternate with mud curses in his videos). “I think this is Montenegro. I can’t help but think, “he says with a laugh. “I’m going straight to a place in Montenegro where I think it might be,” said Risan, a small town. This time, he comes within just five yards.

Davis openly admits that he is no longer the best GeoGuessr in the world. A whole generation came after him and mercilessly adopted a technical approach to the game, keeping in mind the different morphologies of the Baltic power pole; Different cuts of men’s trousers (useful to distinguish in India, where, as one user says, they are usually tight, and Pakistan, where they are more likely to be baggy); Or the “meta” with a slightly ambiguous feeling — the ghostly mark in each picture with the pages of Google’s imaging equipment (you can scroll down to see a team of bulls pulling a camera on a car in Madagascar, for example, or a camel’s shadow that annoyed technicians on the desert sand in the UAE); And also the different resolutions and orientations of the different generations of street view cameras (footage taken from the lower perspective, for example, usually means Japan or Switzerland). Over time, the game has evolved to challenge these “moneyball”-style players, with speed runs and “blink” rounds that test the predictor’s ability to recognize a country after a second or even a fraction of a second of exposure.

Davis is old-school now: he prefers to work with “vibes,” he told me. “Obviously, if you know something like license plates, Southern Hemisphere Sun vs. Northern Hemisphere – such things become clear to you over time,” he explained. “But I think my learning process was very slow.” Contrary to the laser-like technical perfection of great players like ItsRC (a college student in Georgia told me that the GeoWizard video turned him into a game in 2018), Davis frequently makes mistakes. Sometimes he gets all the wrong atmosphere.

The only part that makes GeoWizard video attractive is the lack of relativity. Despite the seemingly rare nature of the game, Davis is far from a geography expert. When he invented GeoGuessr, he was working in strange jobs — delivery driver, butcher, fishmonger, bartender — like he had completed middle school since high school and a little bit of ambition. A friend of his younger brother sent him a game. “I played it and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is it – sorry pun – right on my way!” Coincidence is hard to resist: the lost man finds himself playing GeoGuessr.

The first GeoGuessr video was uploaded to YouTube the month the game was officially released, and the genre was more or less predictable: screen-shared intelligence work, commentary and responses explaining the decisions they made when the prediction was too wrong or too accurate. Quickly, however, the GeoGuessr video became about high scores दरम्यान somewhere between boasting and, for the passionate and skeptical online community, evidence. (Games hosted on the GeoTips fan site require video creation on a global leaderboard.) Davies, who is obsessed with GeoGuessr and eager to do something new, noticed a “market gap” for GeoGuessr videos that received perfect scores. “Decent” – and easy to see – in time. And so he decided to fill it. In 2015, using the GeoguessrWizard moniker, Davis uploaded a video of the Perfect-Score Run to YouTube, which was the equivalent of a home run, GeoGuessr — but he described it as geographer Jeremy Clarkson (especially later). The “big, rounded junction” that starts from its seed and, at some point, leaves even the lump. Davis offered top flight play, but designed it to be not only forensic but interesting. The video gained him a small but respectable following, which only grew when he repeated his prowess on the world map the following year.