Have You Played the Wikipedia Game?

Wikipedia logo

Wikipedia is one of the best resources for information ever created, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, too. There are many variations of “the Wikipedia game” and “the Wiki game” that turn the online encyclopedia into a competition.

The Basic Wiki Game

There are many different games based on the idea of ​​browsing Wikipedia, but all of them generally involve navigating from one article to another in the shortest amount of time or clicks possible, using only the links in the article — no searching. Sometimes the starting article is randomly selected and the destination is fixed, sometimes it’s the opposite, and sometimes both the start and end are randomly selected.

To get started with the most basic version, visit Wikipedia in your language of choice and click the “Random article” link in the sidebar (here’s the English random article link). Now that you have your first random article, which can serve as your starting point, click the random article link again to set your destination. As a side note, Wikipedia has many articles about not-safe-for-work topics, so playing this game in a public setting on a large screen with completely randomized pages might be risky.

Clicking the random link twice gave me Daniela Calzetti, an astronomer, and Melanocorypha, a genus of birds. I couldn’t immediately think of a common link between the scientist and a type of bird, so I backed up enough to reach articles about taxonomic ranks, and then simply went down the tree until I hit Melanocorypha.

That attempt required 12 clicks, which isn’t great. I tried again, this time with the goal of reaching the page for birds more quickly.

That time only took seven clicks, as the National Academy of Sciences was founded by President Abraham Lincoln, who was born in Kentucky, which has an official state bird — the Northern cardinal.

You can play with as strict or loose rules as you want, but there are a few generally agreed upon guidelines. You’re limited to the links within the article itself (no using the search or sidebar links), and going back in your browser history is forbidden. Navigating to overly broad articles, such as articles that start with “Category:” or ones about a certain year, is also typically not allowed.

More Variations

Even though that’s the simplest version of the Wikipedia game, it might be the most frustrating — with two randomized points, you’re more likely to get stuck somewhere, or have a stub article as the start. Thankfully, there are more versions with different rules that add some fun. Here are some popular variations:

  • Two-Player Challenge: One person picks two topics, and the other person must navigate from one to the other. Then, the person who played first gives their own two topics (different from the first pair) for the first player to complete. The person with the fewest clicks wins!
  • Time Trials/Speed ​​Wiki: A start and end article is set, and multiple people race to see who can get to the end article first. Time (and reading speed) is the most important factor here, rather than clicks.
  • 5-Clicks-to-Jesus: Starting on a random article, your goal is to reach the article for Jesus in as few clicks as possible. There are other versions of this that replace Jesus with other major historical figures.

Some of these versions are available to play online. The Wiki Game is one popular version, which automatically selects a start and end article and tracks your clicks. Your score is then displayed next to other people in the same round, like a Wikipedia Battle Royale. The site also allows account creation to record wins.

The Wiki Game image for finding the link between
The Wiki Game is one online version with tracked scores.

No matter which version you play, the Wiki Game is a fun way to turn an encyclopedia into a game that tests your general knowledge. After all, the best way to find the fastest path between two articles is to already know the link between them. Too bad I can’t play it on my Switch — thanks Nintendo, for not giving the Switch a web browser.

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