Ingress: True Social Gaming
Play The Game, Meet Some Friends
When was the last time you met a friend playing a video game? I mean that literally. Have you ever met someone while playing even and online video game and then met them in real life and became friends?
I know it has happened. I have never met people in real life from video games, but I have been in contact with people outside of the game, via phone, email and even snail mail. At the time I would consider those people friends, but we never met in real life and when we ultimately stopped playing the game the friendship was over.
There is one game I have played that truly is a social game. Ingress, created by Google's Niantic Team, is a game for mobile devices that encourages games to go out into the world and interact with your surroundings and ultimately with other people. While at first a game might scoff at the idea (as did I) once you start playing, it is quite fun and addicting!
What is Ingress?
Ingress is a massively played mobile online game. The premise is fairly basic. When you log in for the first time (google account required) you choose a team Resistance or Enlightened (I will go over these more later). Once a team has been selected, you are dropped into a GPS map of your area - your ACTUAL area.
Once the game begins you are not just urged to get out of the house but required to do so. In order to play the game you have to walk around your neighborhood, around town, or around other towns and approach the bright green or blue dots on the map and interact with them. These dots are portals and the game revolves around them.
Portals are all around you, located at parks, identifying markers, historical locations, public art works, etc. Depending on the color of the portal that determines which faction (Resistance or Enlightened) controls it and also controls the actions you can take against it. I am not going to give a detailed breakdown of the entire game, because that's not the point of the hub. As I describe the social aspects of the game however, I will discuss more points of game play as well!
What Type of Game is it?
Ingress, is pretty basic at it's root. It's a game where you access information on a map and interact with it. But when you get into it, Ingress shares much in common with RPG's. The big difference is you are playing your character in real life. By playing you earn stats, get access to stronger weapons and level up.
At first levels are easy to come by, you just interact with the environment and gain AP (experience). Up to level 8 that is all that is required. However, the higher level require you to earn badges that are based off of stats and actions you take, i.e. capturing portals, recharging resonators, destroying resonators, etc. Only by obtaining badges can you move up after level 8, and this is one of the first areas where you find the benefit of social interaction.
As mentioned there are two factions, Resistance and Enlightened, colored blue and green respectively. Here are the descriptions for each factions (description come from https://support.google.com/ingress/ answer/2852766?hl=en):
Join the Enlightened
Faction attempting to help the Shapers infiltrate Earth. Followers believe that the Shapers bring a powerful enlightenment that will lift humankind.
Join the Resistance
Faction defending the Earth from the Shaper ingression. They are seen by some as being fearful of change or progress, but the Resistance is firm in its belief that it is protecting humanity.
To be honest, I selected Enlightened because I like the color green. While you might do research in your particular area on the factions, really, it doesn't matter. Choose one or the other for whatever reason you want.
Each faction generally will have google hangouts that help players connect. I joined one after about a month of active playing and was delighted to first start chatting with people about the game and faction - not to mention trash talking the opposition.
The real reason for the hangouts is to connect players in real life. By team up with one or two people you can do a lot more damage and increase your stats much more quickly. You can definitely do it on your own, but the idea of joining a "raid" party in real life and attacking the opposing factions portals and taking them over is pretty fun.
On top of just increasing your stats, you also make friends this way as well. While this is the main way to meet up with people, it's not the only way.
Meeting in the real world ...
The video above was added mainly because I am going to Gettysburg soon and it seemed relevant!
The second way to meet agents is the completely randomness of playing a game in the real world. The first person I met was someone on my own faction. I was walking around attacking enemy portals and I noticed someone following me staring at their phone. Then I noticed someone else was playing as well and I went over and talked to them.
There person was someone who was part of the google hangout for our faction and I had chatted with her more than a few times.
I had two instances of interactions with the other faction when I was playing in downtown State College, PA. The first a man drove by in a van, honked at me, held up his phone and shook his head. He proceeded to drive off watching me in the rear view mirror. The second time I was playing in the same area and I noticed an opposing player was following me and attacking everything I had just taken over. Once I knew for certain he was on the same path as me I stopped and waited for him to come around the corner. I made a funny joke and we talked for a few minutes. All light-hearted and fun.
The random nature of the game is great! You actually play in the real world and so real world situations come up. So far everyone I have met has been fun, or at least funny in the case of the van, and because of this I have seen the ingress community start larger events and group interactions.
Ingress First Saturday - State College, PA
The Niantic team puts together all sots of events, and recently they have started local First Saturday Events. There have been two so far and I participated in the second.
These events bring people from both factions together in an attempt to gain as many levels and AP points for their city. You are competing against other cities around the world and it is quite fun! A time frame is set for playing and once over everyone gathers together to get prizes or go out later for a drink.
The event that I attended really gave me a good view of the community that plays Ingress. Everyone was fun and supportive from both factions. People got along and joked about the game and battling one another in certain areas. I came away from the event feeling friendly with many people and know that I will hang out with many of them in the future.
Go out into the world and enjoy!
As you may have already read, I am an adult video gamer.
Ingress has made this a much easier and fun task. Video games help me relax and Ingress helps me get out into the real world, meet people and really enjoy myself while doing so. I will continue to play standard video games, but currently Ingress is my game of choice. As far as I am aware there are not other games that so expertly combine RPG style (real life) gaming with an organized social front. It really is genius and I am happy to be a part of the community.