'Find the city you are looking at from above'

Fun with Unzoomed

John Hill
23. 5月 2024
Montage of screenshots from the February 26, 2024 Unzoomed, with answer blurred so it is not a complete spoiler. (Image: World-Architects)

World-Architects learned about Unzoomed via Fast Company, which describes the game as “like Wordle for urban design nerds.” Yes, Unzoomed is like Wordle in that it limits guesses to six, but instead of being a blank canvas like that famous game bought by the New York Times in 2022, visitors to Unzoomed see a specific thing: an aerial image a city somewhere in the world. Given this far-from-blank canvas, the game asks that we take an educated guess based on various factors: recognizable buildings, street patterns, roof colors and materials, types of trees and tree coverage, bodies of water, the directions of shadows, even image quality — just about everything except labels, the missing items we have come to rely on from years of using Google Maps and Google Earth. 

What makes Unzoomed fun is that the images we are confronted with are actually interactive aerials, much like Google Maps, which allow for zooming and panning within the confines of each view; we can hone in on a particular building or landscape that kind of looks familiar from above, for instance, or zoom in to see distinguishing features on roads. An incorrect guess zooms out, from which we can further pan and zoom, but it also yields a distance (in km or miles) from the guess to the correct city. These distances are helpful getting-hot/getting-cold features, but they have revealed, at least for me, how I'm not as good as gauging distances as I believed. Also helpful is the autofill/suggestion feature, which means one can start typing a country to see a list of cities there, for instance, or find the name of a city even if they're not sure of the exact spelling.

Some of the 126-and-counting daily cities are easy — only Venice looks like Venice, after all — but sometimes the question mark appears on relatively nondescript parts of cities, rather than their centers, making it more challenging on that first guess. The game also has us “visit” cities that we have probably heard of but don't know from above. (So many large Chinese cities to remember!) It doesn't matter if it takes one guess or all of them, in the end finding the city is very satisfying. And if you wish you could play more, Unzoomed has an open archive, spanning from January 19, 2024, to the present. Thing you can guess today's city?

Screenshot from today's Unzoom: May 23, 2024.