A Gift From the Algorithm: Crokinole

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  • Trying to understand why any particular video on YouTube gets recommended to any particular person is probably as easy to do as land a spaceship on the moon. Doable, not impossible, but nothing that’s going to come without a significant effort. In general, I get recommended things that have a resemblance to videos I’ve enjoyed. However, once in a while, I get a video that feels so completely from left field that I wonder what I did to get recommended this. To find out I always watch, that’s how I learned about crokinole.

    What YouTube actually asked me to watch as the 2017 New York Crokinole Final between Jon Conrad and Nathan Walsh being contested in Lewiston, New York. When I clicked on the video, the only words I really understood about what I was about to watch were 2017 and New York. The video even immediately begins by telling you that this is the 2017 Turtle Island Crokinole Championship, not New York? Same thing I guess.

    Crokinole is sort of curling and shuffleboard except that you only use your fingers and some round tokens that look the size of a mini Babybel cheese. There’s a center hole surrounded by spaced pegs and landing in the center hold nets you 20 points. Landing elsewhere earns you less points. Here’s the catch, if you miss the center hole your opponent takes their turn and must hit your token in some way. None of that explained in the video.

    Instead, Conrad and Walsh just go at it. There are other people in the room, its not even clear that they’re watching the match we are. They just start slinging tokens. I don’t even know if they’re called tokens (google reveals they are called discs) but I am rapt. I haven’t been this captivated by a sporting even in a while. I’m writing this as a football game is on behind me playing live. I watched the video while I was waiting for the game. Crokinole has me.

    The algorithm couldn’t have known that I would like this or care. But I do. There’s something simple and beautiful about crokinole, a game I will probably forget about later this week. I don’t mean any disrespect by that, it’s light and I don’t think I’ll ever get to play it. But it’s a beautifully simple game. The closeness of the players reminds me of the intensity that’s generated between two chess masters.

    What’s sad is that I’ll never be able to have this first experience again and I love watching competitions for the first time. I can’t follow a season of Ninja Warrior but I will sure spend an entire afternoon watching Drone Racing League. Did you know there was a racing league for drones? There is. It’s great.

    There’s a magic to newness. I wish I could put a word or a name on the sheer joy that newness brings me. Not knowing who the good people are, what the strategies are, what the goal is means that everything is ahead of you, a whole world to explore. I didn’t even realize you could score other points beside the twenty until I looked it up. All for a game I probably will never see in real life.

    The mystery of this thing is at least a small source of my joy. Why this game? Why not just more videos about mecha anime? It just appeared on my screen and curiosity beckoned. I’ll never know. I’ll never land this ship on the moon and I don’t care to know. I’m just happy that YouTube algorithm has brought me such a wonderful gift.

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