The Wiki-Link Game is designed to waste time and life - to fill those idle moments when you can't think of another article that needs writing, can't find a stub that you would like to expand, and it's too soon to make another cup of coffee. If you are lucky, it might also provide an interesting random walk and lead to fresh corners of Wikipedia that you had never thought of exploring.
- Pick a whole number between 1 and ... well, anything you like really, but something less than 10 and more than 3 is likely to give best results. If this is your first time playing, try picking the number 8.
- Make a note of your number and stick to it - ok let's call it N.
- Choose a starting page, either a favourite article or something from the Random page link.
- Now read the article (or just skim read) until you reach the Nth link. Only count links in the body text of the article - that is, ignore any backward-redirect links or anything in a disambiguation section unless the whole article is only a disambiguation page, ignore any links in the header or footer or sidebars. If the page starts with a right aligned table or picture caption that contains links, you have to decide whether they count or not - it's up to you; we are only wasting time after all. (For the official rules on which links count and which don't for different styles or article see the addendum A ~ 326 pages yet to be written).
- If your page doesn't have N links, then game over (the short page ending).
- ...otherwise, follow the link...
- If you arrive at a page you have already visited since the start of a run, then game over (the infinite loop ending).
- If you arrive at a new page, go back to step 4 and keep playing.
- If the Nth link is a red link to edit a page which does not exist yet, then game over (the empty link ending); alternatively you can choose to skip over red links, or you can write a sensible article about the topic with at least N links in it, and then continue from there.
- If you arrive at an off-site, non-Wikipedia page, then game over (the off-site ending); more commonly you can choose to skip over external links.
What to see along the way
Losing is often inevitable. So perhaps the game is really to find the starting page and N that gives the longest run before you hit an infinite loop ending or a short page ending. Here are some other things to look out for on your journey:
- What value of N gives the best results?
- Which pages are the attractors, that is the pages which you always seem to end up on (for example, most year pages such as 1990 are attractors)? An attractor may be a loop more than one page long.
- When you follow a link do you end up at the page you expected? If you hit an unnecessary disambiguation page you've got a copy-edit opportunity to improve that link.
- Which starting page gives you the weirdest random walk linking subjects you would never have thought were connected?
Extra ways to lose
Once you have played the Wiki-Link Game a couple of times, you might be tempted to try these alternative ways to end the game:
- If you go back and edit a page to add a link in order to avoid a short page ending or infinite loop ending, then game over (the nobody likes a cheater ending).
- If, whilst following a page, you really feel you have to edit a page to update it or add an obviously missing link which really, really should be linked, then game over (the no longer killing time ending).
- A corollary to the infinite loop ending is the life's too short ending. Some areas of Wikipedia, such as the series of year pages and decade pages, are semi-automatically generated. It's possible to get into a sequence of pages which loop like the infinite loop ending, but steps back through a series of years without actually visiting a page twice. The sequence will eventually reach a short page ending, or one of the other genuine endings, somewhere in the Middle Ages, but it's not much fun looking for it. If you are actually a Bot you might not notice this ending. An alternative is to skip over the boilerplate links at the top of these pages and only count links in the body of the page.
- If you decide you have to download the Wikipedia database and write a computer program to find the answer to the following questions, then game over (the computer nerd ending, though still valuable time wasting and you just know somebody is going to do it).
- What is the best value of N
- Which starting page gives the longest run for N = 1...20
- Which pages are the strongest attractors
- If you decide you have to download the Wikipedia database and write a computer program to solve the Wiki-Link Game before you have even played it once, you lose (the you lose, you lose, you lose ending) (someone did).
- Get to Philosophy is a special case of this, with N=1.