Exploring with Ingress

Ingress finally arrived on iOS. Having heard the news from one of my gaming chums on G+ I downloaded it. But then I had to go to work, so I’ve not had much time to play until this morning.

The good news is that my work takes me to lots of Portals, the bad news is that it is work, and I can’t spend time around those portals playing Ingress.

If you’ve not heard of Ingress you aren’t alone. In my on-line survey of gamers which cot responses from just under 200 people, 174 hadn’t heard of it, and just three claimed to play it.

Its a locatative game, which is why I’m interested in it. The object is to capture nodes, called Portals, and link them together to outline a space for your team. When you join, you choose one of two sides “the Resistance” or “the Enlightened” – I chose the latter, the under-dogs, it seems, in terms of numbers and territory claimed.

But I fear in not a casual game. Already I think I’ve discovered, there are players who devote a lot of time to planning, organising their travel and working with others to play the game properly. With work, study and family responsibilities I’m not sure I’ve to the time to be very good at it. Even charging up your abilities requires a walk, as the “chi” of the game, called XM is distributed around the neighbourhood (there’s lots more at Portals), and you have to walk about with the game running to collect it. And while the game charges up, your phone runs down – I was pretty much out of power by lunchtime. So, planning, organising travel, co-ordinating with others AND charging your phone. This could be time-expensive indeed.

And I have some ethical questions too. The distribution of chi – I mean XM is not random. At one of the sites where I work it is scattered along an unmarked but heavily used path, which suggests its been generated by people (carrying Android OS phones?) walking along it. In my residential neighbourhood there’s very little down most of my street, but a couple of houses have a cloud, and the estate further down the hill has lots. If it is Android owners generating this content? Do they know they are doing it? And how are the Portals created? It seems that you can nominate places to be portals. But were the first places harvested from, say, Picasa users’ data?

And what data are they collecting from the the players?

In my survey, the most interest shown in locatative gaming is by Hard Fun gamers. Though I don’t think the data proves it, it’s likely the Hard Fun gamers are those most willing to commit to the logistics required to make this a success. And maybe are the group that have time to commit to the game, just as they commit time to practice at the console or PC.

So this is a game I fear, for the early adopters, not the Angry Birds players. But I’ll try and keep up with it, capture some territory, and see what else I can learn from it.