There’s a new computer game out there. And I mean, REALLY out there. In the real world. Welcome to Ingress, an augmented reality MMO that’s currently running in beta. (meaning that it’s still being tested–invite only)
It’s concept: two factions (Enlightened and Resistance) battling against each other for the control of “portals.” These portals have been co-opted by someone something a conspiracy that wants to control (or evolve, depending on which side you’re on) the minds of every man, woman and child on earth. Portals could be anywhere, but are most notably in art, sculpture, and architecture. The game has a rapidly evolving story of intrigue, espionage and mystery that would make J. J. Abrams jealous.
A friend turned me onto it. I had to do some creative thinking in order to get an invite code. Once I gained access, I quickly scanned the area I live in for portals. No such luck… apparently controlling minds in NE Seattle is not high on the conspiracy list. But I hit the streets anyways to see what kind of things I could do.
Yes, I said “hit the streets.” This game is not played inside a darkly lit bedroom or from a coffee shop laptop. You have to physically be where the portals are in order to hack, attack, reinforce, link or control them. Why? Because portals are attached to ACTUAL monuments, buildings, and public artwork. Otherwise, the game is pretty similar to other MMOs. You gain levels through actions, you collect items and weapons, and as you gain experience your “agent” gets stronger.
In reality (I mean, real reality) Google has found an ingenious way to make its applications more accurate, robust, and fun. The more people running around with their wi-fi and gps units blazing, the more data Google gets to consume. The game is highly interactive with Google+, Google’s social network. Also, it only runs on the Android OS.
The game is even more fun when you play with REAL people. Last weekend, I attended my first Resistance meetup. At 9:30am on Saturday morning, I walked into Zeitgeist Coffee in downtown Seattle. More than a dozen people were already gathered. Ranging from ages between 8 and 50, men and women, the single and married, it didn’t look like your typical “gamer” crowd. After shaking hands, exchanging codenames, and downing some caffeine, we embarked en-masse with smartphones held before us.
Downtown Seattle has over 50 portals clustered in various locations. It was easy to interact with a variety of objects in close proximity. I found when more people worked together, portals were easier to attack and control. Veteran players helped n00bs (like myself) level up and understand the game. Most importantly, I was able to see fun and new parts of the city I had never even noticed. (portals carry information about the sites they are attached to)
Any game that gets me out of the house, meeting new people, and walking around exploring new corners of my environment gets an A+ in my book. I just can’t wait to see what other features Google adds to the game over time. It’s an exciting and interesting intersect of real and digital life… all played from your phone. Get off the couch and into the world!