The Wiki Game

On: October 7, 2010
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About Onur Yilmaz
I have a BA in Film & Culture from the University of Amsterdam, and now follow the New Media masters program.


Sometimes, things going smoothly can be very disappointing. It seems strange and contradictory, but there you have it. Writing my first Wikipedia article I had expected to experience first hand the community driven process that defines the wiki platform. I had expected to interact with other editors, to partake in the democratic, decentralized writing process that is the foundation of Wikipedia. But instead of discussions about or edits to the article, all I got was one user doing a bit of spellchecking. So yes, pretty disappointing.

Of course, this might have had to do with the fact that I chose to add an article to the Dutch Wikipedia, which has far fewer active users than the English page. It might have also had to do with the fact that I chose the subject to my article from the requested subjects list. Still, as of this writing, not a single word has been changed or added to my Wikipedia post. No one has sought to build upon the admittedly scant foundation that I supplied.

The Dutch Wikipedia has a very long requested subjects page. Scrolling through, my attention was drawn to the subject “Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope”. First, because I love astronomy and science in general. Second because it seemed like a notable subject for an encyclopaedia. And third, it seemed like a subject that would have extensive documentation available for reference.

Upon investigating I found that I had been right on the third count. However, I had failed to take into account the technical nature of the subject and the difficulty in translating technical and scientific jargon from English to Dutch. So finally I gave up in frustration after a scant 155 words. I did so thinking that others would expand upon the general foundation that I had laid. But, as stated above, no one has taken up the challenge as of yet.

So instead of writing about my experiences with the process of contributing to a wiki, I’d like to tell you a bit about a new way of engaging with Wikipedia. But before doing so let me say in advance: my apologies for destroying all your productivity and eating up your free time.

Let me introduce you to: The Wiki Game.

Be warned: clicking that link will cost you hours upon hours of your life. The game is simple: from a random starting page, you have to find a target page simply by following links. You are pitted against other players who are also looking for the same page. The one who gets there with by means of the fewest links wins.

What The Wiki Game does is not just remixing an existing platform into new, exiting and unexpected forms. It also takes the way we engage with knowledge systems and information carriers and magnifies it. It recasts the associative way we tend to think into a game form. This is already the de-facto way of moving through the internet for many people- following one interesting link to the next without any real goal or structure in mind, and finding strange and surprising connections along the way. The Wiki Game just structures and codifies this experience, and in so doing, calls attention to modes of thinking that we usually take for granted.

It is also incredibly addictive. This report should’ve been done some days ago, but alas, the…ahem…research took a lot of time.

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