Frivolous Friday: Ingress

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Enjoy!

This weekend at CONvergence one of the panels I’m on is on Ingress strategy. I’m so excited to get to talk about this on a panel! Ingress is flipping awesome.

Ingress is an augmented reality game that uses mobile platforms (ie your cell phone) that plays a little bit like a globe-covering capture the flag game. Gameplay exists between two world-wide teams of players, with each team attempting to control actual physical spaces. In order to play you have to actually move around in the real world, so this game is excellent for people who like to get out and explore, those who like walking or biking, and those who want a way to meet new people (though social play isn’t crucial). I particularly recommend Ingress for people who are moving to a new city – it can be a great motivator to get to know your neighborhood, city, and new people.

I first started playing because a Anne Sauer of Mad Art Lab recommended it to me when she found out that I enjoy walking but could use a little more motivation to get out and do more of it. She had me immediately download the game and I was playing within minutes. Luckily we were in the downtown area of Chicago at the time, a space with many portals – locations that you can interact with to play the game. I was hooked pretty much immediately.

In the first few months of playing Ingress I dramatically increased my walking, sometimes spending hours exploring new places and working to level up. I walked through some of Chicago’s historic cemeteries, the areas around my neighborhood and the neighborhood where I go to school, and other areas of the city. Since portals are often connected to public art, like statues or murals, I found cool art I never otherwise would have noticed or read about. For example, I found the statue Eternal Silence at Graceland Cemetery, which is stunning but I had previously never heard of it. It’s possible to play Ingress without walking around a lot (public transportation, driving, biking are all valid ways of playing) but I started in order to walk more and it worked. I play on public transportation a lot too.

Eventually I connected with other players in my area and attended some social events and a participated in a few larger gameplay events. While it is totally possible to play Ingress solo, there is a lot more you can do with more players. Gatherings at bars and restaurants (sometimes called “beergressing”) are a fun way to stock up on in-game gear needed to play effectively. Plus, connecting with other players can get you involved in larger game operations, such as attempts to control large (or VERY large) areas of the globe. Lately my schedule hasn’t allowed for anything but really casual play, but I hope to get back to more co-operative play in the future.

There’s a deep science fiction backstory in Ingress, for people who prefer their games with a great story. Normally I love the storytelling in games, but in Ingress it’s just not important to me.

Honestly, that’s kind of the best thing about Ingress – there are a bunch of different ways to play and all of them are valid and fun. You can play with or without other people, on foot or wheels, with an eye on the plot or not, frequently or infrequently, by building your own fields or taking down enemy ones, etc. This flexibility makes it a good game for many people and a great game for me.

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Frivolous Friday: Ingress
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