September 27 concluded a campaign of live events hosted by Google’s Niantic Labs, the developer responsible for the highly addictive game, Ingress. Called Anomaly Events, these free happenings offered players on an international scale the opportunity to team up in real time and work together to secure artifacts and portals for their team. The final events for summer 2014 took place in Tacoma, Washington, and Munich, Germany, with satellite cities participating in the U.S. and Europe simultaneously.
“Your mind is one of many.” So goes a slogan for Niantic’s Ingress in one of its many streaming video communications online. That seems indeed to be the case with Ingress, a location-based global MMO that has gained a loyal following since the game’s release. Ingress debuted on the Google Play marketplace on November 15, 2012. It became available for the iOS marketplace July 14, 2014. This most recent series of Anomaly Events included, for the first time, iPhone users. At this time, Ingress is a completely mobile adventure.
Playing Ingress, players use smartphones and GPS technology to capture and link virtual sites that exist in the physical world. These sites, called portals, exist to be fought over between two warring factions. Players choose a side of this fight when they sign up for an account; they can fight for the Enlightened or for the Resistance, collecting and establishing waypoints simply by traveling to different real world locations. The game has an ever-evolving narrative, and a well-developed science fiction back story.
Google is perfectly poised to create just such a location-based game using their extremely popular map utility. For Ingress, Google Maps’ API transforms the world into a global battlefield. This most recent round of live events sponsored by Google took place all over the world from July 21 to September 27. The developer has made small, tight efforts to share the top secret back story behind Ingress online, and these live events highlight the ingenuity of a new kind of gaming.
Like Munzee and Geocaching, Ingress is part of a growing trend that uses technology to bring the adventure of gameplay to the outdoors. Games such as these use GPS technology, waypoints and communication between players to stimulate adventure in a physical capacity. Like geocaching, Ingress’s portals can only be hacked or attacked by traveling to them. This means that players of games like these often walk or bike to waypoints.
A recent study by Texas A&M, called Geocaching for Exercise and Activity Research, suggests that many geocachers spend approximately 2.5 hours per week involved in the activity. This study was sponsored in part by Groundspeak, an organization that—like Google’s Ingress—also employs a smartphone app to guide players on an outdoor adventure. Google’s Ingress reports on its Live Event website that those who plan to attend the Anomoly Events can expect to spend three to four hours walking and biking in gameplay. Games like these, then, represent a new wave of technology that is harnessing the nationwide fixation with technology and combining it with recent initiatives to help adults lead more active lifestyles.
Ingress is such an activity, and players cannot seem to sing the game’s praises high enough. Users report that there has never been a game like Ingress. Many players have found a form of identity in their gameplay, some even going so far as to show their support by getting tattoos bearing their faction’s insignia. The app has been well-received, and its well-organized live events are an engaging way to evolve the experiences of players who range in ability level but share a passion for the concept.
Players who did not attend the Anomaly Events that concluded in late September can still join the virtual game as Agents at any time by installing the Ingress app on their smartphone. Any future live events, Ingress says, will be for players of all ability levels. The goal behind live events, beyond exploring a live MMO experience and socializing with Ingress players, is to tip the balance of a player’s chosen faction in the game. (The more people who attend that support, say, the Resistance, the greater the chance that the Resistance will gain control over an area for the future fight to control the fate of mankind.) More than that, however, these live events show a solidarity for the gaming community, and for this emerging type of MMO mobile game.
By Mariah Beckman