Playful learning with free data: the Wikidata games Wikitrivia + Wiki Guessr

Millions of facts, data and images are available in Wikidata and Wikipedia. Knowledge that offers almost unlimited possibilities and last but not least can be a source of great fun. This is proven by the interactive web games Wikitrivia and Wikidata Guessr, which challenge and promote historical and geographical knowledge in an entertaining way.

Which one is older: the MS-DOS operating system or the actor Tom Hanks? Was the École normale supérieure de Paris founded first or was the cathedral of Florence built before that? What came first: the Sacred Band of Thebes or the beginnings of agriculture in China? At least in the latter case, the answer is revealed: Agriculture in the Far East began as early as 13,500 BC. The legendary unit of 150 male lovers formed in ancient Thebes only 13,122 years later.

If you didn’t know that yet, you can learn it by playing – with the web game Wikitrivia, invented by Tom Watson, fed from the treasure of knowledge stored in Wikidata and Wikipedia. The principle is simple: Cards are displayed with a picture and a date, which are to be arranged on a timeline from early to later. In case you are wrong, a red heart disappears, and three mistakes are allowed. Of course, you can start over at any time.

On the back of each card is the Wikipedia link to the depicted persons, buildings or historical events. It’s worth clicking, for example, to learn more about Anna Anderson, a factory worker born in 1896 in Kashubia, who to the end of her life (1984) claimed to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolayevna Romanova – daughter of the last Czar Nicholas II. Or about the legendary New York mobster Paul Castellano (born 1916), whose career described on Wikipedia fulfills all crime fiction expectations.

2,897 kilometers away from Prince Edward Island

Equally inviting is the Wikidata Guessr (programmed by designer blinry). Here the players are shown a picture of a building from Wikidata, which they have to locate correctly on an adjacent world map. After clicking on the “Make Your Guess” button, the player learns exactly how many kilometers he or she has misjudged. Which is likely to happen in many cases to the end of her life (1984)  locating the seat of the legislative assembly on eastern Canada’s Prince Edward Island is something only proven specialists can do. The pin can easily be set a few continents too far to the right.

But don’t worry, there are also easier cases: from the Deutschhaus in Mainz to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to the Texas State Capitol. In general, a generous point system ensures that even gross misjudgement does not lead to frustration –curiosity about more Wikidata Guessr candidates grows instead. 

By the way, Wikitrivia inventor Tom Watson admits that not all data or maps have to be correct. He has started a thread on Github where errors can be reported. Of course, everyone is invited to correct any errors in Wikidata or Wikipedia themselves. It could be the first step to join the community of editors!