My favorite time to strike is lunch time. I start my campaign of destruction right before I grab something to eat. I wander down King Street by the Wonderment Puppet Theater and move towards Queen Street, systematically taking down barriers and destroying resonators set up the day before. The Comm line activity starts to pick up, my faction mates rooting me on and the other side swearing to seek revenge.  I head up North Queen Street, changing the landscape from green to blue. Leaving a wake of new portals controlled by the Resistance.  For now.  As I sit down to enjoy my lunch, the smartphone starts buzzing in my pocket.  No doubt someone from the Enlightened is currently dismantling all the work I just accomplished.  I finish my meal and head back out onto Queen Street, more cautiously than before.  There are now players afoot.  I catch a 30-something frantically walking around the street, plugging away at their phone.  I casually follow, taking time to dismantle their portals and pretending to read a magazine with my phone in the fold.  The other player looks around with a confused look on their face. Which one of us is playing them? Everyone out on the street is staring at a phone screen. Is it that person walking a dog? The two teens giggling over their iPhones? It could be anyone of us.  Welcome to the world of Ingress.

Ingress is an augmented reality game. An augmented reality game means what you see on your phone or computer is represented as specific places in the real world, and is invisible without the right program or application.  The application is two-fold, a phone program and a browser map call the Ingress Intel Map.  The Ingress Intel Map is a real time representation of the Ingress world. You have the opportunity to watch Ingress unfold in Martinsburg and all over the world.  The game spans connections over thousands of miles with players working together in different time zones and continents. The game is a perpetual round of capture the flag. There are two sides in this challenge: the Enlightened and the Resistance.  You choose one side at the onset of the game, fighting for territory along the way. A robust back story and narrative complements the experience with players helping sway the outcome of the plot.  Videos are released intermittently as reports to help keep players up to date about the day to day operations. The following video clip explains the basics.

An important component to Ingress is controlling portals. Portals are glowing white areas that exist on your phone. The use of global positioning services (GPS) logs them to a specific location. This is where the game gets interesting.  Portals are historical sites, points of interest, locally owned businesses and landmarks in the real world. When you get in range of these portals, you are able to “hack” them for in-game items.  Taking over a portal and linking it to other portals creates opportunities to blanket your town in a sea of green or blue. Martinsburg has a great variety of portals.  I have created a few including Ambrose Park and the Martinsburg water tower.

Solo play is rewarding, but Ingress really shines with its co-op nature. Small groups of faction players can level multiple portals and build them back up for your faction before the competition knows what hit them.  Having friends and family on the same faction can be great; having them on the opposite faction is even better.  Ingress involves a lot of walking around your community, providing fun while you get exercise and fresh air. As you travel in and out of the Martinsburg area, you can collect and learn about new portals, connecting them to places in other counties and other states.  The game is active all year round, in the middle of the summer and the dead of winter.

In terms of the game application itself, there are a number of tabs to assist with your experience. There is an inventory where you will find in game items.  An agent section that displays your statistics for gameplay including your level and earned badges. An Intel section displays global and regional scores.  A mission section displays different tasks available in your local area.  Examples of missions in Martinsburg include Martinsburg Parks, Martinsburg Churches, Hedgesville, and Baker Heights. There is a great training session with eight mini missions to complete in learning the game.

The application has a communication function where you can chat with people locally, regionally and globally. There are options to talk with everyone and only to talk with your faction.  This area also contains alerts for portals that are being taken and by whom.  If introducing adolescents and teens to this game, it will be important to have a conversation about internet safety.  There are faction members who will schedule meetups in the area. Having a conversation with youth about the associated dangers of meeting up online will help create safer and more fulfilling game experience. I have met many great people in my Ingress experience who come from all walks of life.

Playing Ingress inevitably teaches you about the community at large.  You get to know your portals in and out as you frequent them. A good portion of portals are around historic plaques and memorials, giving the player an opportunity to learn about the Martinsburg community at large. Portals and missions are player contributed as well, going through a review system completed by the game administrators.  A new restaurant in your area open up? Create a portal around it.  The dog park has an approved portal and new ones are opening up every day.

Ingress is an all-around great game if you are looking for a new outdoor activity that combines technology, competitive gaming, and cooperative play.  With Ingress, it’s hard to do it alone.

Do you play Ingress? Let us know about your experiences in the comments.


(Photos and Screenshots by Nicholas Trietsch)

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