Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Squee: Ingress

The Sunday Squee is about things that make me happy and excited. From books to movies to television shows to podcasts, I'll highlight less commonly known things as a way to share what I love. If you want to join in the Sunday Squee, please link back to me, magnifying both of our joy.

Ingress is an Augmented Reality Game played via the GPS on various smartphones, begun and husbanded by the company Niantic (subsidiary of Alphabet, which is Google's new umbrella company). You sign in as an Agent via a Google email (no Google+ account required, though they want you to link one up) and chose an identity with which to interact with and be known by in this world of portals and Exotic Matter (XM).

The background story is charmingly brief - the researchers at CERN Labs discovered an additional invisible particle alongside the Higgs Boson which was dubbed Exotic Matter. It turns out this material is being used to power portals at various spots of cultural importance and enable the enigmatic "Shapers" to influence humanity. The Enlightenment (team green, also known as frogs or toads) are on the side of the Shapers and want to usher humanity into an even greater stage of evolution (yes, I know this is a misuse of the concept of evolution!). The Resistance (team blue, also known as smurfs) want to use XM against the Shapers and protect humanity from potentially malevolent interference. I don't really think the side matters much for the fun - I chose based on who invited me, so we could be on the same "team" but picking based on favorite color works just as well.

In practice, both sides are known by the best and worst of their members. There have been stories of aggressive confrontations between opposing teams while in other areas teams work together and seek to foster growth and fun interactions even between rivals. Niantic, for it's part, seeks to encourage the latter through large events where people can meet in public and play together. My reasons for playing are more simple - a friend invited me and I thought it would be a fun way to encourage me to get out and walk around - and so far it's proven to meet those goals admirably. In time, I plan to set up some of my own "missions" for people to take, and have already done a bunch myself. It's also a fun way to get to know a new city, as the missions are often fifteen or thirty minute walks around interesting and beautiful places made by locals in the area - a great chance to run across things which a visitor might miss.

A note of caution if you want to join - use a name which can't be traced back to your online presence easily. This game does use your physical location, as determined by your smart phone, and your name will be left any time you resonate or attack a portal.

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