Wikipath: a game for bored people

So I wrote the post below, thought “This is not a particularly original idea, but it’s fun. Maybe I’ll just google my name of it to be sure it doesn’t mean anything already” — and lo and behold, it actually already means just the thing I describe below.

* * *

Go to a random page on Wikipedia. Choose another random page.

Try to get from page #1 to page #2 using only the links. No typing. No cheating by going to the alphabetical index (there is one), and no going to the Main Page. If you want to be strict, no going to Categories either. Just hitting the links. No typing — so no editing either.

May be played as a timed game or as a shortest-path game, may be played by yourself or against someone else. (By yourself, it’s probably a game of the cleverest path.)

Here’s an example. Page #1 is “The Elite Squad“, a Golden Bear-winning Brazilian film from 2007.

Page #2 is “Michael Connelly“, American crime writer, author of the Harry Bosch (LAPD) books.

My path was as follows:

The Elite Squad > Rio de Janeiro > History of Brazil > Spanish colonization of the Americas > California (ha!) > Los Angeles > List of notable people from Los Angeles (no Connelly) > Los Angeles Police Department (what, no mention of Bosch?) > 1992 Los Angeles riots > 1992 Los Angeles riots in popular culture > Michael Connelly (victory!)

Notes: It cost me that Brazil is Portuguese, not Spanish. It surprised me that Connelly was not in the Famous from LA list; but he’s apparently from Philadelphia originally. (A possible additional rule: no fact-checking while you play this.) I don’t know anything about the movie, but a working knowledge of the Bosch books and of American history was a lifesaver: I knew to aim at LA from the Spanish angle, and at Connelly from LA and the frequent mentions of LA riots; the “X in Popular Culture” sections were very useful.

Urgh, this game really makes you think about how to sidle up to something.

If you want to make the game even more humiliating to yourself, two extra rules: (a) no going back — once you hit a link, that’s where you need to go, even if it is a horrible choice and/or a stub; and (b) no going to an article you already were at.

If this was played as a spectator sport — and I’d much rather watch this than any grunting-jock sport! — there could be a jury to give points for clever and unexpected paths; and lots of points for not rising up to big general articles before diving back down.

This would become a Bacon game if you restricted yourself to just people. This would become a horribly difficult game if you chose a different-language Wikipedia: it would be a smaller and less “saturated” space.

Go pick some two of these and play — or take these as a route, starting from Katainen and ending at Mandela:

Jyrki KatainenDonner partyPascal (programming language)Lord of the RingsCharles StrossHölder’s inequalityNelson Mandela

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