Everyone has had their productivity ruined at some point by GeoGuessr, and now it's about to happen again. You can think of City Guesser as a kind of sequel, where streetview images from Google Maps have been replaced by videos taken while walking through city streets. The question, and the compulsion, remains the same: can you work out where you are?
Hit the link above, select a region, and you'll be presented with a video taken by a pedestrian walking through a city. There's a "Start Guessing" button you can use to select where you think you are on a map. After you've submitted a guess, it'll tell you how close you were, and then it's on to the next video.
City Guesser is often substantially easier than GeoGuessr. Sometimes you start a video and, immediately, there's a license plate with "California" written across the top, or a sign that says "Tottenham Court Road Station". GeoGuessr would often drop you on a country road with nothing but trees and weather to steer you, but City Guesser's urban environments and moving videos give you so much more information to work with.
That's not to say there's no challenge at all. You can choose whether you want to tour cities only within a specific country or continent, but select "worldwide" or a region with languages other than your own, and suddenly all those shop signs are a lot less useful.
That said, it's not the challenge that keeps me playing. City Guesser is part of VirtualVacation.us, a website that lets you browse videos taken while walking, driving, or flying above locations all over the world. I already watch a lot of videos like that on YouTube channels such as Nippon Wandering, TokyoStreetView and Seoul Walker. You can find videos like these for every major city, and I imagine VirtualVacation.us is just acting as a wrapper for browsing them.
These wandering videos are great material for a second screen while you're working or playing a game, and I find them deeply relaxing. They also sometimes give me a feeling of intense longing, though; a kind of nostalgia for lives I haven't lived. I'm not sure I find them much of a substitute for being on vacation, but for me they most closely resemble the experience of watching the world whizz by outside a train window. If you've ever wondered who lived in a house, or where another commuter was going, then these videos might appeal to you.
And City Guesser is a great framework for exploring these videos. It nudges you into paying attention to minor details as you play investigator. All the shops are big American brands, I think, and it looks like palm trees running along the road. West coast of the United States, then, but which city? There are buses, but I can't make out the sign. The video crosses Queens Street, which doesn't narrow it down, although the street sign is blue. It's not LA or Seattle or San Fran. Could it be San Diego? I've never been there. Try to listen to that guy's accent when he walks by the camera, it's-- Oh, he's speaking Spanish. This must be California somewhere, right?
(The answer was Auckland, New Zealand and I was correct within a mile.)Have fun. And thanks to Alex Wiltshire, author of The Mechanic, for sharing it with me.