At our last meetup, my colleague Kat introduced me to Ingress. Fast forward 3 weeks: I’m an addict.
Ingress is a giant game of Capture the Flag, an Augmented Reality game built on top of Google Maps. It’s only available on Android right now, and is quite addictive!
The world around you is not what it seems. Our future is at stake and you must choose a side.
- A complicated back story.
- 2 fractions / teams, with different points of view about the background story: Resistance and Enlightened. I chose Enlightened.
- 8 levels (8 more are about to be added to the game). I’m at Level 6.
- Many Portals: monuments, sculptures, memorials, important buildings around you. Each team can capture portals, and create links between them. When you create links between 3 portals, you form a Control Field.
The area covered by control fields is used to calculate Mind Units, i.e. people. The fraction with the most Mind Units wins. A new cycle (game) starts every week.
As you can imagine, all this makes for quite the nerdy game. The learning curve is steep, and that’s most likely why the game never got insanely popular. I assume it will become a bit more popular once it’s available on iOS, but the complicated vocabulary and back story probably mean it will remain a game intended for geeks.
But Ingress is not just about levelling up or winning. The game is built so that you have to interact with other fraction members.
- When you first start playing, you have to build –deploy Portals, create links and Control Fields– to level up. Destroying high level portals is difficult because you don’t have weapons that are powerful enough yet. Luckily, high level players can help you by destroying the portals for you, thus allowing you to rebuild.
- Once you reach a high level (levels 7 and 8), you must coordinate with other high level players if you want to build high level portals. That forces you to interact with other players, and it’s also a good incentive to help others levelling up.
I walk more
Working from home is great, but I find it hard to motivate myself to get out and exercise. I got a Jawbone Up last year, hoping it would help me. It did, a bit, but Ingress is way better, especially for someone with a “Just One More” mentality like me :)
You can’t play from behind your screen, you have to get out there and walk to each portal you want to capture.
Ingress tells me I walked 37 km in the past week. I didn’t think I’d start walking 5 km every day when I started playing!
I discover my neighborhood
I’ve been living here for almost 8 years. I like to think I know my way around pretty well; yet I’ve discovered many small streets in the past few weeks, and never knew there were so many sculptures and memorials a few blocks away from home.
I’m back on Google+
Ingress includes an in-game chatroom, where you can exchange with your fraction members, as well as with the other fraction. It’s limited though, and it made sense for fractions to find better ways to communicate with each other, and coordinate events.
I expected to find Facebook Groups, but Google+ seems to be the winner. It is well integrated with Android, and brings together Group messaging (Google+ Communities) and group chat (Hangouts). It also includes a lot less personal information than Facebook, and that’s especially important when your most fierce enemies are your neghbors, fighting for the portals you cherish.
I must admit that I didn’t know Google+ Communities included so many features. It’s a lot better than Facebook Groups.