As you can see in Google Maps Street View, the screen displayed unobtrusive highways and trees. It could have been anywhere from Tasmania to Texas.
“This will be somewhere on this road here in the southern Philippines,” Trevor Rainbolt immediately said, clicking on a location on the world map less than 11 miles from that location.
Then there was a winding road in the woods. Lake Tahoe? Siberia? “Unless you’re in Japan, you seem to be here in Switzerland. Yes, we have to be here in Japan,” Rainbolt said, identifying the country correctly.
Rainbolt has become the face of a growing community of geographic fanatics. A game called GeoGuessr.. The premise is simple. When I’m staring at my computer or cell phone, I’m depressed somewhere in the world with Google Street View, so I need to guess where I am as soon as possible. You can click to navigate roads and cities and scan for identifiable landmarks and languages. The closer you guess, the more points you will earn.
To some, Rainbolt’s quick answer seems magical. For him, they are simply the result of countless hours of practice and an insatiable thirst for geographic knowledge.
“I don’t think I’m a genius,” said Rainbolt, a 23-year-old online video producer in Los Angeles. “It’s like a magician. For a magician, the trick is easy, but for everyone else, it’s much harder.”
For casual players, crossing still images of winding idyllic roads, Mediterranean hills, and tuk-tuk-filled streets is quiet, with no particular time limit. But for performers like Reinbolt, the pace is enthusiastic, and it takes only a few seconds or less to locate.
Rainbolt is not the top GeoGuessr player in the world.The distinction is often thought to belong to the passing Dutch teenagers. GeoStique, Or to a French player known as Blinky. But since the beginning of the year, Rainbolt has been and shared with GeoGuessr’s standard bearer, thanks to his fascinating social media posts. 820,000 followers on TikTok Like any other social platform.
Appearing in hoodies and sometimes headphones as dramatic classical music plays in the background, Rainbolt identifies a country at a glance at a patch of sky or wood.
For some videos, after watching a Street View image for only a tenth of a second, black and white, pixelated, or all of the above, we guess the correct locale. In others, he is blindfolded and (correctly) guesses the explanation someone else has provided to him.
Most shocking was the video that Rainbolt used a geomorphological survey to pinpoint where the music video was shot. In one viral clip, he found the exact streets of Nevada from a video of a man driving Capybara. “If I go missing, I hope someone hires this guy for me,” said a Twitter user.
GeoGuessr was created in 2013 by Swedish software engineer Anton Wallén. He came up with this idea while trekking all over the United States. Early influencers like GeoWizard, UK YouTuber, Helped promote the game. It also became popular during pandemics when a multiplayer mode called battle royale was introduced.
Rainbolt’s social media post further boosted that. Last month, in a promotional coup, Rainbolt livestreamed with former Twitch personality Ludwig Ahgren, who is currently broadcasting to 3 million followers on YouTube.
The GeoGuessr site currently has 40 million accounts, said Filip Antell, who heads the content for GeoGuessr, a 25-member company in Stockholm. Some of those people are subscribers who chip $ 2 a month for their ability to play an unlimited number of games. According to Antell, the revenue will be paid to the developers and Google and will charge GeoGuessr to use the software.
Growing up in Arkansas, Rainbolt has never left North America, despite his worldwide knowledge. However, his bucket list has many locales, such as the Aleutian Islands in Laos and Alaska. People tell Reinbolt that his passion is a little crazy. The most common question his friends ask him is “Is that true?”
He says so and promises to never forge a video. He sometimes makes a mistake in the country. He mistakes the United States for Canada and the Czech Republic for Slovakia are two common mistakes, even for the best players. And he admitted that in most cases he only posted his highlights on social media, rather than failing occasionally.
So how does he do it?
Of course, the key is practice. Rainbolt fell into a GeoGuessr rabbit hole during a pandemic, watched others livestream their play, and took a closer look at the learning guides gathered by geography enthusiasts. He said he studied 4-5 hours every day. He repeatedly plays GeoGuessr in a particular country to get a feel for the terrain and remembers how landmarks such as road signs and utility poles vary from country to country.
“Frankly, I haven’t lived a social life in the last year,” he said. “But it’s so much fun and I enjoy learning, so it’s worth it.”
He said that some of the main functions Rainbolt uses to distinguish countries are bollards, which are used as roadside barriers. Utility poles; License plates; Which side of the road the car is driving? And the color of the soil.
If you know where to look, there are other clues. Image quality is important — Google has shot different countries with cameras of different generations — the color of the car used to record the terrain is also important. For example, a glimpse of a white car in South America means you’re in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, Rainbolt said.
GeoGuessr has different game modes. One of the most popular forms is duel. In this duel, the player or team starts at 6,000 points and takes “damage” based on the accuracy until the opponent’s guess is zero. Some games allow you to click to move around the map, while others are “no move” games. If one player guesses, the other player will confirm the prediction within 15 seconds.
Professional GeoGuessr players are described not because they make a living by doing it, but because they are the best in the world, but the competitive scene is still in its infancy, but it’s growing rapidly. Is called.
Leon Cornale, a 21-year-old professional player from Ratingen, Germany, known as Kodiak, described the competitive GeoGuessr as “fragmented and fragmented.” For example, a group of French players form their own community and host tournaments, while other players form a group through Reddit. However, GeoGuessr’s recent popularity of social media has boosted interest in broader competition.
The best player, often as young as 15 years old Compete for world records Then he started taking part in a livestreamed tournament on Twitch hosted by Rainbolt. With little money, star players have won the praise of thousands of casual GeoGuessr players who gather on Discord servers to exchange tips and share scores.
24-year-old Lukas Zircher, who lives in Innsbruck, Austria, fell in love with GeoGuessr when he came across one of Rainbolt’s Instagram posts. Zilcher decided that he too wanted to be one of the greats in the game.
“It’s hard to get better, it’s really good,” said Zilcher, who is currently devoted to bollard research and memory of South African soil colors. “I can recognize all African countries from a few pictures, but it’s still not good. I miss the countries of Eastern Europe.”
Sidmills, a 22-year-old freelance illustrator from New Jersey, was fascinated by Rainbolt’s content. She has played GeoGuessr before, but she was surprised at how quickly she improved when she watched his video providing tips for identifying the country.
“This time, instead of passively roaming around looking for language hints and flags, I picked up guardrails, road markings, bollards, and more,” Mills said.
She sometimes experiences moments she imagines to resemble the awe that Mr. Rainbolt inspires. Once, when playing GeoGuessr with her father, she quickly identified her image in Uruguay because of the lines on the road.
Her reaction was, “Why do you know that?” She said.