While scrolling through Summer Games Done Quick, you might have been confused seeing Geoguessr pop up on the schedule. You might have also wondered what a speedrun of what you understand to be a Google Maps version of Where’s Waldo might look like. Well, I’m here to tell you: It looks like fucking sorcery.
Geoguessr is a browser-based game that is exactly what it sounds like. Players are plopped onto Google Maps Street View and have to figure out where they are. For this speedrun, Havrd, the runner, did what’s called a “perfect score” run. In Geoguessr, when you guess a location, you’re awarded points based on how close your guess is to the actual location. The further away you are, the fewer points you earn. If you’re within around 185 meters (or 182.88 m for us filthy metric-denying Americans) you’ll earn the max amount of 5,000 points. Since there are five rounds in a perfect score run, Havrd needed to earn 25,000 points within the 35-minute time limit.
The man is a living Mapquest. He is Cerebro, able to pinpoint exact locations with just the power of his mind — and a whole lot of context clues. In Geoguessr, you can move within the map to look for clues to better figure out where you are. For the map Havrd used, Geoguessr’s website (which included a cute note welcoming all the Geography nerds who might find the site from the speedrun) says there are “over 52,000 hand-picked pinpointable locations.”
“Oh this Turkey, near the airport,” Harvard said matter of factly while mere mortals were still trying to discern the correct hemisphere.
Havrd was able to guess Turkey as his first location rather quickly but ran into trouble when he was given a location in the United States. He admitted that North America wasn’t one of his strong suits. After initially guessing he was somewhere in Texas he had to “drive” several miles up and down the roads, looking for landmarks that he could then use to backtrack to his location. There are even harder versions of Geoguessr that don’t let the player move around, requiring them to guess where they are from a single 360-degree view, proving the gods living among us have no interest in using their power for good. Eventually, Havrd successfully tracked his location to somewhere in Nevada, earning him a perfect 5,000 points.
As a child, geography was extremely my shit. Twelve-year old me (and let’s be real — current 33-year-old -me) would have committed unspeakable crimes for the chance to don the iconic red jacket and shake Lynne “The Chief” Thigpen’s hand as a contestant on PBS’ Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego. Havrd is the natural progression of who those lucky bastards grew up to be.
Part of what makes Havrd and others who play Geoguessr at that level of difficulty so good is that they’re able to absorb a staggering amount of contextual clues that non-players wouldn’t think to look for. There are the obvious clues like road signs and landmarks but to get world-record-holding levels of good good, runners have to think creatively. Everything from the local flora to the silhouette of the Google Maps car can tell a player where exactly they are. According to Havrd, he knows when he’s in Kenya because their Google Maps cars have “snorkels” on them. He knows he’s in Nigeria from the orientation of the red and blue lights on the police cars that escort a map car.
Fucking incredible right?
As it turned out, Nigeria would be the country that caused Havrd the most problems. He was on the final guess and had about 10 minutes left on the clock when Geoguessr ported him to the west African country. What’s remarkable is that within seconds he knew roughly where he was in the continent’s most populous country — a suburb in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja — just not enough to be within the 180km margin of error. He had to painstakingly search up and down the streets looking for a more concrete clue. Finally, Havrd found a hotel and was able to backtrack from its location to correctly guess where he was. He finished the run with a time of 31:31 — only three minutes and thirty seconds left to spare.
If that wasn’t obscene enough — Havrd’s personal best in this category is eight minutes.
The world record? Three.
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