Ingress: A Game, Lifestyle and Social Network in One!
It’s 2014, and the world of mobile phone gaming has seen a lot of great games come and go.
There’s Candy Crush Saga for tile-matching gamers, Temple Run for endless running gamers, Plants vs Zombies for tower defense gamers, 4 Pics 1 Word for word puzzle gamers, Asphalt 8 for hardcore racing gamers, and a whole lot more. You’ve probably downloaded some of them into your smartphone, played them and gotten addicted for a while, and when the time finally came, bid them goodbye via the “Uninstall” button.
But have you heard of Ingress yet?
If you haven’t, well, Ingress is, as blogger Chaim Cohen put it, the “best game you have never played.”
What is Ingress?
I first got word of Ingress last December 2013 when I was browsing through the Google Play store in search of games to save myself from holiday boredom. I downloaded it, didn’t quite grasp what it was within the first five minutes, and then uninstalled it. Looking back, it was the biggest and funniest mistake I’ve made in my whole gaming life as four months later, my best friend re-introduced it to me.
The Ingress app as seen in the Google Play Store. Look at that and tell me you wouldn’t be even just a little curious!
Ingress is the first of its kind: an augmented reality massively multiplayer online GPS-dependent game. That seems like a mouthful of jargon to describe a game, so let me go ahead and break things down for you.
Basically, it is a game that uses our world, the physical Earth, as a blueprint for its own reality. With the help of mother company Google (and her oh-so-precious Google Maps), Niantic Labs was able to jumpstart Ingress and develop it into the pervasive yet revolutionary game that it is now. All you need to start playing Ingress? A smartphone with an Android OS 2.3 and above, a Google Mail (Gmail) account, a working in-phone GPS, and of course, an Internet connection. There are absolutely no in-app purchases needed. Just recently, Ingress was made available for iOS users, too! So, whether your friends are iPhone or smartphone users, you can bond over this AR game.
Once logged in, players are made to choose between two sides, go out of their houses and comfort zones, and engage in what seems to be a giant game of capture the flag. Since its invite-only debut on 2012, Ingress has become the (walk and) talk of the gaming world. Even here in the Philippines! Check out how the world, the Philippines, and our very own Metro Manila look like on the Ingress Intel map (that’s www.ingress.com/intel for those who already have their Ingress accounts).
Be part of the worldwide community that is Ingress!
Presenting the Philippines! Just look at how active players are from Tuguegarao all the way down to Davao!
When In Manila, don’t forget to hack, own, or destroy portals as much as you can!
If you’re still not impressed or at least intrigued by this point, then let me just go ahead and put this out there: Ingress was awarded the Top Game of 2013 at the Google Play Player’s Choice Awards, the Best Android Strategy Game runner-up at the Android Central Best of 2013 Awards, and one of the Best Android Apps of 2013 by Gizmag.
Challenge accepted, Ingress!
Disclaimer: This game requires some patience and a bit of a learning curve.
Challenging? C’mon, what would Barney Stinson say?
I won’t be discussing how to play the game in detail because that’s one of the fun parts of Ingress that I don’t want to take away from you, guys. But before getting down to a sneak peek of the game’s knowhow, a brief orientation to its rich backstory is necessary. YES, IT HAS A BACKSTORY.
Ingress runs with the idea that a mysterious kind of energy (exotic matter, or “XM”) has been discovered by a team of European scientists to be entering our world. This energy is found to be leaking in our planet through so-called portals, which are, in the real world, landmarks, statues, monuments, tourist spots, and places that can be considered physical works of art. Like I said, it has a backstory.
At the start of each player’s journey within Ingress, they are made to choose a side or faction. The “Enlightened” (green) aim to understand the power of XM for the advance of civilization, while the “Resistance” (blue) defend humanity against it and its potential hazards.
Once players have made their choice, they then officially become agents for that faction’s cause.
Agents then go to so-called “portals” in their vicinity, “hack” them to acquire in-game items, and capture them by deploying “resonators” on them. First one to deploy resonators in an uncaptured portal gets the bragging rights to say he or she “OWNS” that portal!
As of writing, the MRT Guadalupe Station is “owned” by an Enlightened agent named Necrohades.
Agents are also tasked to destroy the opposing faction’s portals by firing “XMP bursters” near them, linking allied portals together using “portal keys”, and creating “control fields” by creating triangles made of linked portals.
The biggest control field ever made in the Philippines was done by and for the Enlightened. The field, in its entirety, covered 85% of the Philippines, with portals on Puerto Princesa, Laoag, Legazpi, Davao, and even Taiwan used as anchor portals. It took 29 (really adventurous and dedicated) agents to make this incredible feat possible. Check out their video of the awe-inspiring Operation: REPRESENT.
Don’t worry: there will be briefings and training missions once you start the game, so you’ll get a first-hand idea of the basics there. Once you’re done with the training missions and you feel like you want to learn more (cue: Pokemon theme song, “I wanna be the very best that no one ever was…”), go surf the net for tips and tricks.
More Than a Game: the Ingress Lifestyle
Ever since its inception, the one thing that has set (and still sets) Ingress apart from all of the other mobile and tablet games out there is its true potential to become more than just a game.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, this alternate reality game requires people to literally go out of their houses in order to play and participate in it. In addition, players realize later on that playing Ingress becomes easier and more fun with the help of fellow Ingress players. People form new relationships and friendships because they realize they have shared goals within the game and, for some, similar interests outside the game.
Just last month, a meet and greet was set up and held by players from Manila. Luneta and Intramuros were the chosen as venues for the event, given their significance both to the country and to the virtual world of Ingress in the Philippines. (Note: The agents in the picture asked for their usernames to be kept secret to protect their identities both in real life and in the game.)
Agents gathered at a meet and greet event in Luneta and Intramuros last June.
I myself have met people from different places whom I never would have had the chance to meet and interact with if not for Ingress. This game became a reason for me to travel more, be more open to friendships and teamwork, and write this article with much excitement for Filipinos, gamers and non-gamers alike.
From left to right: Agents @remus007red, @n3iTh4n, and @maykalabao.
These Enlightened agents from Bicol take a selfie behind a statue – a live portal in the Ingress world.
So, what’s Ingress for me? It’s the game that smartphones and our 7,107 islands were made for.