Interactive

A 1980s-Style Game Takes You Through a Wikipedia Rabbit Hole

Wikipedia: The Text Adventure by Kevan Davis turns Wikipedia’s data into a pixelated game that you navigate through typed directions.

“Wikipedia: The Text Adventure” by Kevan Davis (all screenshots by the author for Hyperallergic)

You are standing in a crowdsourced world with millions of destinations. You can take several directions, each leading to a new pixelated place. The starting point is one of your own choosing, but the following locations can all be altered by volunteers around the globe.

Wikipedia: The Text Adventure turns the Wikipedia database’s API into an old-school text adventure, which you navigate through typed directions. Created by developer Kevan Davis, who previously used the data of Wikipedia in the autogenerated novel Around the World in X Wikipedia Articles, the “Wikitext” game offers a fresh perspective on this massive organized dataset of information. At the beginning, you can choose from suggested entries, such as the Statue of Liberty or the “Tree That Owns Itself,” or enter anything you want (provided it has geographic coordinates). From there, players move along the cardinal directions to new entries, each announced with a brief snippet of its text and an image pixelated like a 1980s game.

"Wikipedia: The Text Adventure" by Kevan Davis
“Wikipedia: The Text Adventure” by Kevan Davis

Users who remember interacting with those more rudimentary video games will enjoy discovering commands like “take” to add any object to your “inventory” (I picked up “Pittsburgh” and the “glass cube” from the American Museum of Natural History). There’s also “jump,” “sing,” and “talk,” although these mainly result in some dead-end humor (“You jump on the spot, fruitlessly”). I decided to start at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and soon found myself wandering the unfamiliar architecture of Pittsburgh, before relocating to Manhattan for some museum hopping.

It’s interesting to stumble upon the gaps in photographs, data, and knowledge in Wikipedia as voids in an unfolding maze, as well as exploring what works of art in, say, the Museum of Modern Art are worthy of their own entries. The wealth of information constantly being edited and updated in the rabbit hole that is Wikipedia can be overwhelming and endlessly fascinating. (I’m a bit obsessed with the often incredibly specific image category names.) “Wikitext” is a playful way of wayfinding through it. And fear not, there is no danger of being eaten by a grue or encountering lurking horrors on this online quest.

"Wikipedia: The Text Adventure" by Kevan Davis
“Wikipedia: The Text Adventure” by Kevan Davis
“Wikipedia: The Text Adventure” by Kevan Davis

Wikipedia: The Text Adventure is available to play free online.

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