I have sung the praises of Sporcle.com (here and here), the game site that can teach you more than you learned in grad school. First they had the U.S. presidents. Then they added things like African countries, and the periodic table of the elements. Now they’re adding games at a breakneck pace, and along with the expected pop culture quizzes on cartoon villains, you can crack your brain on obscure and mind-bending tests like naming the 54 Danish monarchs between 934 and the present day. FYI: “Hamlet’s Dad” is not an acceptable answer, but “Eric the Memorable” and “Gorm the Sleepy” will both work. I always forget Eric.
Anyway, I didn’t want to get sucked into talking about Sporcle again. What I wanted to do was point you to an entirely new and seductive way to waste hours of your precious time. On MakeUseOf.com I got introduced to the amazing head-to-head geography challenge called Geosense. You get paired with another player, they flash up a city like “Vientiane, Laos” and you have to click on it on an unmarked world map faster and more accurately than your opponent. Hard and fun. Try it.
A recent post by Friend of the Star Chamber Mike Onken over at the Industry! blog reminded me what a terrific resource Sporcle is. I’ve written about their excellent Name the Presidents game here before, but they’re on a roll now. They’ve got some kind of solid infrastructure that lets them churn out games lickety-split.
Their games do a good job of removing all the hassle from lightly-aided recall trivia games. The challenge is much greater than you’d get with multiple choice, but it’s also much more satisfying. Just type as fast as you can in one place and good things happen. I love these things. It’s an ideal way to learn your way around the countries of Africa, the names of various Greek gods, and as Mike discovered, the elements of the periodic table. Poke around the list of games and you’ll find, in addition to the things you’d like to know, some things that you already know disturbingly well. You might be alarmed, for example, at how many Simpson’s characters you can name. When you memorize the fact that Moe’s last name is Szylak, can it cause you to forget the capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou?
I would go so far as to say that this is where education is headed: autodidactic social competitions. Strong on the social, light on the competition, and largely self-guided. Everybody likes to know how they’re doing compared to everyone else. I’m sure this site is driving a lot of serious learning.
UPDATE: How can I neglect to mention the Sporcle challenge to name all of the cheeses in the Monty Python cheese shop skit? That’s a lot of cheese. No no. Don’t tell me. I’m keen to guess…
Not wasting enough time yet today? I have just the thing for you. Bloxorz is a dangerously addictive game that will exercise your spatial reasoning muscles. Not to mention your procrastination muscles. I have no idea how to pronounce Bloxorz, but then again, I don’t speak hax0r.
The idea is to roll a little brick past various obstacles while preventing it from plummeting, Q*bert style, into empty space. It’s very nicely made. Love the little metal-brick clinky sounds. And I like the fact that there’s absolutely no time pressure.
Let me know how far you get. I haven’t gotten past stage 15 yet.