So, I’ve been playing Ingress for the last few weeks. Ingress is an augmented reality game where two shadowy organisations wrestle for dominance over the minds of Earth’s human population: Enlightenment are trying to establish mind-control portals all over the world to help aliens called Shapers bring a powerful Enlightenment that will lead to an evolution of humankind. Resistance are trying to stop them.
The cool thing about the game is that it’s out there, in the “Outer-net”, in the “real world” you might have heard so much about. Ingress actually requires you to get off the sofa, away from the keyboard, and run around in the fresh air. All you need is your Android phone.
Game play involves taking control of “Portals” which are located at points of interest such as sculptures, murals, or significant buildings. You take control of a portal by placing your own Resonators on them which, in game terms, tunes the portal to your own team’s energy.
You can attack an enemy-controlled portal by firing “XM Pusles” at them, which sap the energy from the portal by destroying the other team’s Resonators.
You can Hack any Portal to gain XM Pulses, Resonators, Portal Keys and other items used in the game.
But to actually use the items requires two things: you to be in proximity to the Portals as well as the use of XM, or Exotic Matter, which is distributed fairly randomly around the streets. You gain XM by, again, coming into proximity and allowing your XM Scanner (a fancy name for your Android phone) to pick it up.
So my lunch hours have been spent briskly walking around the city collecting XM and hacking Portals, attacking the Enlightened Portals and placing Resonators at the Resistance Portals. I generally do a couple circuits of 3-4 city blocks in an hour. I’ve changed my walking patterns before and after work so that I can walk past these Portals to get a few Hacks in. I managed to take down my first Level 4 (mid-strength) Enlightened Portal the other day, being the Lord Forrest statue in Supreme Court Gardens. It changed hands again fairly quickly. Indeed, the map changes hourly. There seems to be a lot of unemployed no-lifers or students playing it and they’ve managed to level themselves up fairly quickly.
It’s a fun game though. It’s meant to be a social game as well. In wandering around the city to the various Portals, you tend to see a lot of the same group of people constantly checking their phones. Covertly checking their screen you can see a telltale blue or green glow, an indication they’re playing Ingress. Generally you can say hello, or give them a nod and a wink and ask them what team they’re on. If they’re Enlightened or Resistance, it doesn’t really matter. I met one guy from Hong Kong who was actually using Ingress as a sight-seeing tool. It turns out he was also a very high level Resistance player and he helped us out by placing some of the highest level resonators ever seen in Perth.
How does one get in on this action? Well, for now it’s a closed invitation-only beta, though you can go to the web site and request an invite. I hear invites are being dealt out 2-3 months after the request is received. If you’re after a social game that’s good for your health, you could do worse than Ingress.