Mobile Gaming: The Mystery That is Ingress

Ingress is a free invite-only mobile game in which players claim "portals" for their side. What makes this game unique is the way you claim portals. You have to visit places in the real world.

When it comes to mobile gaming the field is nearly saturated with a couple types of games. You have the slingshot-physics games like the ever-popular Angry Birds. Then you have the endless-runner or scrolling runner games like Temple Run. Of course a few others come to mind but there is not a great degree of variety in either the Android or iPhone markets. However, every now and again a game is developed that breaks the mold and changes the way people look at mobile gaming or gaming in general.  Wouldn’t you know it, Google is the company that has done just that.

Enter into the fray, another mobile-gaming genre; the Augmented Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Game or ARMMOG for those claiming to be “in the know”.

About two weeks ago Google’s Niantic Labs released a game called Ingress on the world. The game itself is a simple game by its premise, however the fact that in order to play it you are required to move around in real life adds  a bit more to the experience. The story behind the game is intriguing and mysterious and is surely going to keep people interested for some time. As the story goes there is a strange energy emanating from all around the world. This “energy” does something to those who come into contact with it and as such two factions have developed as a result. The Enlightened who are trying to promoted this “energy” and the Resistance who are of course, fighting it.

The mystery surrounding the game is the story itself. Everything you are told while playing comes in bits and pieces and these pieces keep people curious enough to keep playing hoping for more of the story. That is not all however. The way that the game is played is what requires you to go around your local area. The energy comes from things called portals. These portals sprout up from local landmarks, government buildings, or parks. Anything in your area that has some sort of significance can eventually become a portal. Places like the Geneva Post Office for example. The Post Office is currently a portal for the Enlightened.

In order to keep the energy flowing, people on the Enlightened team need to recharge the portal from time to time with energy they collect.  The Resistance meanwhile tries to hack the portal and “flip” it to their side. This goes back and forth until eventually one side controls the entire world and the game is over. At the current rate however and because of other things the developers have in mind, they are expecting the game to have a shelf-life of about a year and a half.

All in all the game is rather interesting. Playing the game is one thing, but first you have to get in. The game itself is free to download but in order to have access to play the game you must get an invite. This invite can come from other players (if you know one and they have an invite to share) or you can get one from the actual developers. Getting one from a developer is easier said than done though.

Getting an invite to the game has quickly become something of a challenge in itself. For those who do not have one, the need to play the game, and the fact that they cannot has driven some people to devote much of their free time to the mission. Once you finally get one however you can go through the training and play the game for whatever side you choose.

Overall, for a mobile game Ingress seems like a bit more. The fact that it keeps you moving around in the real world gives it an interesting feel that many other games cannot boast. The interaction between other members of your team and the world around you is done in such a unique way that it is surely going to generate a huge following.  It has already gone viral within the first week it was released with people everywhere clamoring for an invite. One thing that does have some people a bit on edge however is the fact that the game uses your phones built-in GPS and has the ability to collect that data. People are a bit worried about just what Google will do with that data. That is a great question, and one that we can only guess as to the answer.

Consider GooG-411 of the recent past. It was a free 411 style information service that Google started, let run for a while, and then closed. They made no money off of it and for a long time people wondered why Google even wasted their time. However, what Google did do was gather huge amounts of data. By using the service Google was able to generate a huge database of accents, the speaking styles of various people, and anything else that you can gather about how a person speaks. What did they use the data for? They used it to help develop their voice recognition software for Android. Siri on the iPhone might be a bit more recognizable, but Google’s voice recognition software is by far the superior one.

The same could be said of Ingress. Imagine the amount of data Google can collect on the walking habits of its users. Where they go, how long they stay there, how long it takes them to get from place to place. The game could be a marketing gold-mine for Google. Of course, while some may be worried about privacy lost, they need not. Google generally uses this type of information for the purposes of creating new products that let’s face it, end up being useful for everyone.  In addition, the information that is gathered is mostly anonymous and safe. For example, they would know that “A person walked from point A to point B in 20 minutes and remained there for 30 more.”  Not very dangerous at all.

In the end, people shouldn’t worry about the information gathered by Google by using a game like Ingress. There are plenty more things to worry about with today’s cell

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Barbara Young December 06, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Android only. iPhone owners are out of luck.
Tony Pronenko December 06, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Yes they are. Maybe Google will be nice and share if it gets big enough. It certainly has that potential the way things are going.


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