Six degrees of Wikipedia: we review Wiki Hunt

I have a confession to make: some days I’ll wake up and spend the entire day on Wikipedia. When I can’t sleep at night, I pop it up on my iPhone. When I hear about something new, something old, or something completely mundane, the very first thing I do is wiki it. My name is Jim Squires, and I’m a wiki-holic. And Wiki Hunt? Wiki Hunt is a game that’s tailor-made for people like me.

Wiki Hunt takes the six degrees of separation theory and applies to Wikipedia. Six degrees of separation suggests that any two people can be connected in six or less steps. Movie buffs play a game called six degrees of Kevin Bacon that challenges them to link any actor to Kevin Bacon in less than six steps. Wiki Hunt is pretty much the same game, but using Wikipedia articles.

Wiki Hunt

For those not familiar with the site, Wikipedia is a free web-based encyclopaedia that’s updated on a constant basis by anyone who wants to participate. Anything you could ever imagine is listed on the site, and if it’s not you can add it yourself. One of the key elements to the site is the hyperlink. If something can be referenced to, it absolutely will be. This is where the six degrees theory comes into play. How many links will you need to follow to get from Article A to Article B?

It may sound like a strange idea to those who aren’t addicted to the wiki, but those of us who wile away our afternoons soaking up as much knowledge as we can from the site should instantly see the potential here. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve started with an article on something like Mickey Mouse and somehow ended up at Candlepin Bowling 20 minutes later. Turning that adventure into an actual game is pretty much a no-brainer.

Wiki Hunt offers up three different modes of play, “Use Random Articles,” “Choose Articles,” and “Six Clicks to Jesus.” Each of these modes is pretty self-explanatory, though each has its own natural level of difficulty.

The easiest of these is Six Clicks to Jesus. As the name suggests, the game will give you a random article and you’ll need to get to the wiki entry on Jesus Christ in six or less clicks. It may sound challenging, but there’s a trick that makes this mode ridiculously easy. Nearly every page links to a geographical location, and that in turn will lead to a section on that nation’s religion and culture. From there it’s little more than a click or two to the target page.

While we get that using Jesus as the endgame was meant to make this a relatively manageable task, we would have loved to see another wiki page with the “Six Click to” feature that would have offered up a greater challenge. Six Clicks to the zipper, for example. Or Six Clicks to bananas. Maybe Mussolini. Anything other than one of the most-linked to pages on Wikipedia.

On the other end of the difficulty scale is the Use Random Articles option. This is the real meat and potatoes of Wiki Hunt, and if you actually spend time reading the articles you could easily lose a few hours to this without ever finding the article you were searching for. On occasion you’ll luck into an easy find, but expect to encounter many challenges here that seem unsolvable.

Wiki Hunt

Still – every challenge in Wiki Hunt has a solution, and you can click a button at any time to see just what that is. If you’re looking for a more manageable challenge you can always choose your own two articles and try to find the shortest path between them. If you already have two entries in mind that you’d like to read, this can be a fun way to see how they’re connected.

Wiki Hunt is equal parts trivia game and scavenger hunt, but it’s not going to be for everyone. We’re talking about a game based on the encyclopedia here; I’m having trouble thinking of something that could possibly sound nerdier. Still, if you’re already a wikinut like myself, Wiki Hunt is an easy sell. Now go and see if you can get from the Hoover Dam to Donald Duck in three easy steps.