Thursday, June 13, 2024

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Jakob Poeltl And The NBPA Relaunched The Player Puzzle Game, Poeltl

Rephrase my Getty Image/Merle Cooper
A prominent if ironic feature of the late information, or digital age, a time when humans have turned ever more inward, is a large and perhaps occasionally crippling existential awareness. Just about everything you’d ever want or need to know, in some cases what you wish you didn’t, is available to you at all times. The sheer volume of information is at once affirming and conflicting, rewarding and worthless, very fun and strangely depressing. With so many notions about how to live, or the fundamental truths of the world and what we’re doing on it, we’re left with no absolute or discernible truth, pondering the point of it all at the speed of our digital connection.
Another prominent feature of the late information age is Wordle. Or, puzzle games and the seemingly insatiable thirst for them.
How the two features collide over Jakob Poeltl — an affable, 7-foot Austrian center — may not hold the secret to our observational existence, but it does get down to one of existence’s most crucial threads: human connection.
The NBA player guessing game, Poeltl, was launched on February 25, 2022, four months after Wordle debuted and seared deep into the collective psyche. If you’ve never played, Poeltl offers eight guesses to narrow down one current NBA athlete, with categories of team, conference, division, position, height, age, and jersey number for hints. Those categories are highlighted green to indicate a match and help narrow down your next guesses. If a category is highlighted yellow, it means you’re close. If you’re really stuck, there’s also an optional silhouette prompt that reveals a shadowy outline of the person in question.
Gabe Danon, the game’s creator, was a producer on the excellent Dunktown podcast, and a daily player of Wordle. He credits it, and games like it, for offering another way to feel a sense of connection with friends and the wider world, especially when the pandemic loomed large. Danon describes the moment the idea for the game came to him as less of an aha and more of a gratifying click.
“I think it was just a moment where the two things connected in my head, where you could use that kind of mechanic to guess a basketball player instead,” Danon recalls over the phone.
In “a fit of inspiration,” Danon got to work. A web developer by trade, he had a basic prototype by the end of the first day and debuted it to the Dunktown Discord. The group became the game’s beta testers, spotting bugs and offering suggestions for improvement. The name also came from the group, Danon initially used a placeholder of “Basketbadl,” a “terrible name” he’d forgotten about. In two weeks — which is incredibly fast, though Danon says humbly he doesn’t want to claim he did it faster than anyone else could have “but it was certainly my focus at that time” — Poeltl was published on the Dunktown website. Danon figured he’d see a few hundred people pick it up.
“I originally for better SEO. 

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