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When Ingress made its debut on November 15, 2012 Google made the release to what was, at the time, a considerably small audience. Google had hinted at the game at Comic Con in July, before the official beta release, but for the most part the game seemed to go unnoticed. Little was known about the game during the months leading up to its release. After the release however, its reach began to grow rapidly, and by May 2013 this once niche game boasted a larger audience of around 500,000 players. A pretty dramatic number of players considering that the game was available, at the time, by invitation only. It seems that once the ball started rolling there was no stopping it.
At the time this article was written, it is unclear about how many people are currently playing the game world-wide. Niantic Labs, the developer of the game and owned by Google, will not release the information. One thing is certain however, on the Google Play Store we can still see that the game has had over 1 million downloads. That should paint a pretty good picture as to how many people are potentially playing now.
In a nutshell Ingress is a GPS based alternate reality game where two factions fight for the control, or freedom, of the world. Imagine a video game that requires its players to actually be at a certain location in order to play and advance and that pretty much sums it up. For a full game description see the sources listed at the end of this article.
Since Google released the game there have been more updates to make it safer and more secure as the game begins reaching this larger audience. Many Ingress players find themselves, during game play, in a position to meet other players in real-time. Weather those players are of their own chosen faction or an enemy faction. In fact, using a sample of 1,572 players, it was found that an astounding 74 percent of players said that they interact with each other in real life. In addition, 29 percent of players reported making “new friends” while playing. While little is known of Niantic as a company one thing is for sure, they sure do now how to bring people together. As the game continues to grow in popularity it will be interesting to see if the player dynamic will change once the game reaches deeper into the main stream.
It is not all fun and games unfortunately. Using the same sample group as before, 16 percent of players, the actual number possibly being twice as high, admitted to knowingly breaking the law to be able to play the game. In addition there is an added risk while playing this highly addictive game. Just recently in January a 16-year-old boy named Gabriel Cavalcante Carneiro Leao died in Brazil while playing the game. He was hit by a bus on his way to capture a “gray portal.” His mother had given him many warnings, urging her son to be careful. Unfortunately that was not enough.
The fact that the game has been said to be quite addictive, as many games played on mobile devices are, should put players on alert to real life dangers. It is important to remember that anything that has the power to take focus from other important tasks, such as driving or walking, does have the potential to be a hazard to players of any age. The type of game being played becomes more and more irrelevant when approaching a crosswalk.
After everything is said and done it should be brought out that Ingress, like any other game, should be played with care and common sense. Google has made a great game and it will, more than likely, continue to reach out to larger and larger audiences. As the world becomes more and more screen-centric, the importance of making sure to take the time to look up and actually enjoy the real world should be made known. Once upon a time there was a clear line between playing outside, and playing video games. These days little is remembered of those times as that line get more and more blurry. One thing is for sure; Ingress, and games like it, will be more and more prevalent in the mobile gaming world, but that should never take away from the value placed on the real one.
Opinion By Phillip Schmidt