There’s a secret war going on for control of the world.  An enigmatic force, known only as “the Shapers”, has the populace split – some welcoming the entity, others want no more than to cease it’s infiltration. You’ve probably stood in the middle of open conflict, and had no idea of the ongoing battle – it’s secret, and invisible.  Well, it’s invisible to iOS users, anyway.

Ingress is an augmented reality MMO developed by, in-house Google startup, Niantic Labs. Since November 2012, Ingress has been in closed beta exclusively for Android users – it’s expected to hit iOS sometime in 2014, ensuring everyone can help roll out the welcome mat or build up defenses to repel the invasion.

You start by choosing your faction. The Enlightened believe that the Shapers are working to better mankind – while the Resistance feel we’re fine the way we are and the Shapers can take a hike. Once you’re an affiliated Agent, the objective is simple – capture and hold as much territory as possible to ensure your faction’s dominance. Agents capture “Portals”, usually real world landmarks and places of interest, by physically taking their Android device within a few meters of it’s GPS waypoint – they then deploy “resonators” to begin capturing the Portal. I could spend pages talking about the gameplay of Ingress, it’s deep, slowly unfolding story,  the devoted community… but, Google already has, and besides there’s something more exciting to talk about.

Resistance Members

Kicking off Oct. 12th, Google and Niantic Labs have begun running organized Ingress events across the globe, dubbed Operation #13Magnus – I had a chance to catch up with them in Seattle, and Oh, the things I saw.

I met with my contact, Archit, a Niantic Labs member of the Enlightened – but for today, he was neutral; as an iOS user, so was I. He gave me a rundown of what Ingress is about as we strolled through Cal Anderson Park. Handing me his phone, I got a feel for the game interface – a black map crossed with blue streets, and smattered with icons identifying nearby Portals. I had barely begun tinkering with Ingress app on Archit’s phone before we arrived at the rally point.

Both factions gathered around the mountain-esque fountain on the North side of the park, a clear divide between two – members were decked out in their factions colors, green for the Enlightened and blue for the Resistance. Walking into the fray, I could sense a great deal of community and belonging among, and even between, the two factions – it wasn’t “Star Bellied Sneetches vs Plain Bellied Sneetches” – there was good natured ribbing from the two sides, jokes from either faction were met with laughter from both, everyone had come to have a good time.

Prior to the official beginning, I had a chance to speak with Ingress founder, John Hanke – during our talk, he expressed how happy he was with the game’s progress, giving special note to it’s user-driven aspect and how Ingress brings people together. Recently, Syrians and Israelis came together in a player-organized event, both factions comprised of mixed nationalities. They drew up the plans, and carried them out together.

Resistance members planning their strike

Bringing people together, who would otherwise never meet, seems to be an underlying benefit of Ingress. The experience of exploring your local area, combined with the benefit of meeting people who have similar interests is invaluable. Not only do you gain deeper knowledge and appreciation for where you live, but you get to meet the people who live there.

The theatricality during the Enlightened’s faction briefing was reminiscent of Command and Conquer’s live action cut-scenes, seeing an actor portray an in-game-character and address the Agents is an inspired way to up immersion into Ingress. He relayed today’s mission was to intercept a courier, who carried with them a document containing information regarding the location of the body of Roland Jarvis, the Enlighten’s leader.

Enlightenment Breifing

Small envelops were handed out to each Agent, who then broke into groups, headed by balloon brandishing captains. I managed to snag one of the Resistance envelops, inside was a Resistance pin and sticker, an Agent name badge (think, “Hi! My name is”), a card with a code for an in-game item, and a map showing cluster hotspots. With plans laid and groups formed, both factions lit out into the park and surrounding areas of Capitol Hill – off to claim and hack portals to create control fields.

Unable to see the portals on my screen, me and my iPhone were left lonely. Android users that want to get in on the global good time can sign up for beta access at Ingress.com. For new and seasoned Agents, check out the Operation #13Magnus tour dates below for the opportunity to experience Ingress with the added flare Google and Niantic Labs have prepared.

 

October 12
Primary
Los Angeles, California, USA

San Jose, California, USA
Bangkok, Thailand

Remote
Vancouver, Canada

Montreal, Canada
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

October 26
Primary
Seattle, Washington, USA

Kiev, Ukraine

Remote
Warsaw, Poland

Bucharest, Romania
Budapest, Hungary
Prague, Czech Republic

November 2
Primary
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Madrid, Spain
Mumbai, India

Remote
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, USA
Barcelona, Spain
Lisbon, Portugal

November 16
Primary
Dallas, Texas, USA
Vienna, Austria

Remote
Austin, Texas, USA
Houston, Texas, USA
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Bratislava, Slovakia
Graz, Austria

December 7
Primary
Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Rome, Italy

Remote
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Tucson, Arizona, USA
Athens, Greece
Istanbul, Turkey

December 14
Primary
San Francisco, California, USA
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Remote
San Diego, California, USA
Santiago, Chile
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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