If you saw my recent tumblr posts you may have thought I’m playing Ingress. I am. Ingress is many things: an augmented reality game, Google Maps gamified, a walking game, a reason to get outside the house.
The game centers around “portals”. Portals can be gathering places, libraries, churches, unique businesses, or artworks — and, as a result of some business tie-ins, Zipcar stations & Jamba Juice stores are portals too. Players can suggest portals. The company that made the game, Niantic, is part of Google, and I’m sure that Google Maps is making use of this information.
[T]he other morning I spent about an hour playing in Washington Square Park. The park has loads of portals so I figured it would be a good place to try to focus on taking over some enemy ones.
Turns out that even in a place with a dozen or so portals within two blocks, it is difficult to play without being constantly on the move. After a portal is hacked it has a cool down period before it can be hacked again. [...] Hacking an enemy portal makes you lose energy, which you replenish by collecting more. To do that, you have to walk around. The energy shows up as little white dots on the map. It’s plentiful, but you have to physically go get it by walking around with the game open on your phone.
I find the game fun. I get in-game goodies by hacking portals defined around the area, and I can claim portals using those goodies. I can also attack “enemy” portals.
There can be a lot of walking, yes, but the speed can be your own, as can the number of breaks you take. By default, you can hack each portal every 5 minutes with a max of 4 times in 4 hours. For me, this can mean I hack a portal and move on. On the other hand, when I had 2 portals in range from a shady bench this afternoon, it went like:
- Hack 1st portal
- Hack 2nd portal
- Add goodies to the portals (to make it give out better gear, or better shielded, or able to be hacked more frequently – whatever)
- Read twitter
- Hack portals again
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 twice
- Move on to more portals
Obviously your mileage may vary. It’s summer in Seattle. I currently favor playing in areas with lots of benches, shade, and occasional water fountains or coffee shops to get drinks. I also play quite a bit while riding to and from work (I ride with a friend who prefers to drive) or on the bus.
“[M]y favorite way to use Ingress is as tourist guidebook. Beyond that vampire grave in Rhode Island, Ingress also led me to a home on the Upper West Side where Babe Ruth once lived and to the site of Thomas Paine’s death in Greenwich Village. “
— NY Times
Ingress has led me to better explore parks and streets that I thought I knew. I’ve discovered the local library has more artwork than I thought, along with the local churches and the local senior center.
Ingress is an experience. The whole point is to go out and find some portals, then, once you’ve established your presence, take a look at the real world. Enjoy some artwork, explore a museum. Get inspired. Interact with people. Make new friends, even. After all. You’re fighting for the fate of human creativity and thought, here. May as well make use of that wonderful mind of yours and share it with others.