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The Game Is On

Game main page.

Game main page.

Gamification. One of those horrible buzzwords that are thrown around by everyone these days, between “cloud computing” and “the internet of things” (as opposed to the internet of people fitted with ethernet jacks, or those who get a good WiFi signal on their tooth fillings). Sure enough, gamification in the Wiki-verse has not been met with resounding success yet, unless you consider Wikipedia itself a MMORPG, or count the various vandal-fighting tools. Now, editing Wikipedia is a complex issue, which doesn’t really lend itself to game-like activity. But there’s a (not quite so) new player in town: Wikidata. I saw an opening, and I went for it. Without further ado, I give you Wikidata – The Game (for desktop and mobile)! (Note for the adventurous: Tools Labs is slightly shaky at the moment of writing this, if the page doesn’t load, try again in an hour…)

So what’s the approach here? I feel the crucial issue for gamification is breaking complicated processes down into simple actions, which themselves are just manifest decisions – “A”, “B”, or “I don’t want to decide this now!”. I believe the third option to be of essential importance; it is, unfortunately, mostly absent from Real Life™, and the last thing people want in a game is feeling pressured into making a decision. My Wikidata game acts as a framework of sub-games, all of which are using that three-options approach. The framework takes care of things like landing page, high scores, communications etc., so the individual game modules can focus on the essentials. For this initial release, I have:

The "merge items" game.

The “merge items” game.

  • Merge items shows you two items that have the same label or alias. Are they the same topic, and should thus be merged? One button will merge them on Wikidata (and leave a deletion request), the other will mark the pair as “not the same” within the game, not showing this specific combination again.
  • Person shows you an item that has no “instance of” property, but might be a person based on its label (the first word of the label is also the first word in another item, which is a person). One button sets “instance of:person” on Wikidata, the other prevents it from being offered in this game again.
  • Gender shows you an item that is a person, but has no gender property set. Set the property on Wikidata to “male” or “female”, or skip this item (like you can do with the other games – skipped items will show up again eventually).

There is also an option to randomly pick one game each time you press a button in the previous one – slightly more “challenging” than the single-game mode, which one can play at quite high speed. Of course, this simplification misses a lot of “fine-tuning” – what if you are asked to decide the gender of an item that has been accidentally tagged as “person”? What if the gender of this person is something other than “male” or “female”? Handling all these special cases would, of course, be possible – but it would destroy the simplicity of the three-button interface. The games always leave you a “way out” – when in doubt, skip the decision. Someone else will take care of it, eventually, probably on Wikidata proper.

Another point worth mentioning is the speed of the game. I took some measures to ensure the user never, ever, has to wait for the game. First, all the potential decisions are made server-side, and written into a database; for example, there are ~290K people waiting for “gender assignment”, and candidates are updated once a day. Upon loading the game website, a single candidate entry from each game is loaded in the background, so one will be ready for you instantaneously, no matter which game you choose. Upon opening a specific game, the cache is loaded with four more candidates, and kept at that level; at no point, you will have to wait for a new page to appear once you made a decision on the current one (I actually had to add a brief fade-out-fade-in sequence, so that the user can notice that a new page has been loaded – it’s that fast). Actions (merging items, requesting deletions, adding statements, remembering to not show items again) is done in the background as well, so no waiting for that either.

What else is there to say? The tool requires the user to allow OAuth edits, for both high-score keeping and accountability for the edits through the game. The game interface is English-only at the moment, but at least the main page has been designed with i18n in mind. The games are designed to work on desktop and mobile alike; passing time on the bus has never been that world-knowledge-improving! As a small additional incentive, there are high-score lists per game, and the overall process players have made in improving Wikidata. Finally, the code for the individual games is quite small; ~50 lines of code for the Person game, plus the updating code to find more candidates, run daily.

Finally, I hope some of you will enjoy playing Wikidata – The Game, and maybe some of you would like to work with me, either as programmers to share the tool (maybe even the good folks of WMF?), or with ideas for new games. I already have a few of those; I’m thinking images…


  1. Nemo wrote:

    Ah, I really miss some keyboard shortcuts: 1 2 3 may be good enough.

    Now, how to produce addiction? Maybe some countdowns, real time rankings, score sharing features, reminders? No idea how all those phone games and cookieclicker imitators really work. 🙂

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 23:41 | Permalink
  2. Waldir wrote:

    Awesome, I’m so glad this has finally arrived! I already played with it a little, and have some feedback to give 🙂 It would be nice if the main page at had a link to a place for submitting feedback. Do you plan to maintain some sort of issue tracker? I have a feeling that this could get huge 😀

    Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, you rock!

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 01:46 | Permalink
  3. Wow, this is amazing. Thank you so much, Magnus, for making all of these cool and useful tools! I am constantly impressed by how easy you make things look.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 07:15 | Permalink
  4. Wow, I love it. Now, I’ve finally found my initial path to contribution toward wikidata.

    Just 2 comments on the interface:
    1. I would probably reward the user with some non intruding notification, maybe a div on the right hand side of the screen as soon as he completes a task,
    2. I will probably keep the user roster on the same page of the task, to foster contributing toward beating who is upper in the roster than you are.
    3. in the “random game”, make the task goal more visible.

    Thanks a lot…

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 09:28 | Permalink
  5. Elitre wrote:

    So addictive. Wish we could build similar games for Wikipedia as well. What I’d suggest is some kind of filter which won’t show me stuff in languages I don’t understand – they slow me down and I get easily frustrated/bored.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 10:03 | Permalink
  6. Accurimbono wrote:

    Great game! 🙂 Very addicting and useful. My 2 cent: why not double check the player answers before edit? To avoid any error, we can presume that an answer is correct when not only 1 but 3 or more players answer at the same way. The edit can be postponed and attributed to the first player who did it. Too difficult to be implemented? May be, but for sure It could improve the quality of the game contributes to Wikidata.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 12:06 | Permalink
  7. Waldir wrote:

    Accurimbono noooooo! This would be going against the very wiki spirit that led to our movement’s success!

    People already have to create an account and authorize the game via OAuth so every edit can be traced back and if you think you made an error you can easily go to your contributions in wikidata and fix it.

    Adding layers of complexity and lack of transparency would only remove from this game’s awesomeness.

    I do agree, however, that we should do whatever we can to make the game as little error-prone as possible. One change that was already made was to put the not sure button in the middle, to avoid misclicks. Something else that can also be done is to highlight the clicked button so we’re absolutely sure what we’re doing (in mobile I was sometimes not sure which button I had clicked).

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 12:25 | Permalink
  8. Magnus wrote:

    @Nemo: 1,2,3 shortcuts in place. Also, improved button placement on mobile. Live stats at

    I don’t like countdowns for this, might “pressure” people into deciding instead of skipping, which would increase error rate.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 14:18 | Permalink
  9. Magnus wrote:

    @Simone Cortesi: There is, actually, a status box in the upper-right corner, that will show what the game is doing (e.g. merging items, requesting deletion), but that vanishes once it’s done. This can be quick…

    I’ve added the mode icon to the individual games page; on the desktop, you can hover over it to get the current mode as text.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 15:08 | Permalink
  10. Accurimbono wrote:

    @Waldir: the wrong merges are VERY difficult to be rollbacked, therefore this game will create a lot of problem. Errors shall be avoided in some way.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 15:53 | Permalink
  11. HaeB wrote:

    One Wikidata admin seems to have concerns about the way merges are submitted by users of this game, and has held up processing the resulting deletions for that reason:

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 16:16 | Permalink
  12. Waldir wrote:

    Haeb, it’s not as controversial as your comment may make it sound. Seems to be a technical glitch only, hopefully something quickly fixable. See the message he left Magnus here:

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 18:00 | Permalink
  13. HaeB wrote:

    Thanks Waldir – I didn’t mean to sound overly dramatic, just wanted to flag this while many more users are joining the game. It looks like another admin has now begun processing these deletion requests that were marked earlier as “on hold”.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 19:38 | Permalink
  14. Xavier Combelle wrote:

    It would be cool if preferred languages could be set.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 20:25 | Permalink
  15. Meumeumarj wrote:

    Great idea! This will certainly kill my “Real Life” productivity for some time.

    I was surprised that I can sometimes extract data from a text in a language I don’t speak.

    Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 10:30 | Permalink
  16. YMS wrote:

    Great idea, powerful tools, great interface! I like it (even blogged about it to promote it a bit) and look forward to more games.
    Keep on the fantastic work, Magnus!

    Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 11:52 | Permalink
  17. Jen wrote:

    Awesome! A couple suggestions: back button (or similar) for misclicks, an option never to show a certain language again (I ended up with a lot of Chinese pages I couldn’t make heads or tails of).

    Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 20:23 | Permalink
  18. Nemo wrote:

    What I like most of the game is that it loads so fast! Orders of magnitude faster than waiting for a Wikidata entry to load all its stuff, reach the appropriate point of the page etc. etc. Most of the time, slowness makes me not edit wikidata entries at all, but with such an interface I may contribute more frequently. 🙂

    Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 20:53 | Permalink
  19. Polyglot wrote:

    What I would like to see, is a way to have the text translated automatically by Google or Bing. Now I’m doing a lot of copy/pasting, which kills my efficiency.

    Can we continue playing? I’m still on hold.


    Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 05:31 | Permalink
  20. Dirk wrote:

    A back button is really necessary. I guess, I’ve clicked quite often on the wrong button but I couldn’t undo it.

    Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 13:29 | Permalink
  21. YMS wrote:

    Some bug reports:

    – If the item has been deleted, the game just displays something like “Loading item Q5395133…” forever.
    – If somebody removes the “is a human” statement, the item still remains in the gender game queue, e.g. I just had to tell the gender of Q6746672, where the Q% statement has been removed several days ago.

    Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 13:26 | Permalink
  22. Jen wrote:

    Another idea — add split-screen google images search? Extra loading time might not be worth it, but a very easy way to identify gender in most cases.

    Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 22:16 | Permalink
  23. Elitre wrote:

    Also: app-ify this!

    Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 12:09 | Permalink
  24. Magnus wrote:

    @Jen But how do you know the person described in the item is the same as shown in the Google search? Could be anyone with the same (or similar) name.

    @Elitre You mean, make it a downloadable app for mobile? Why? Just to “have an app”? Not sure how an app would be “better”; this kind of thing doesn’t really work offline, and I don’t see a need for extensive hardware access…

    Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 14:05 | Permalink