It was stormy at dusk last Sunday; Shoekey and I hunched shoulder-to-shoulder in a waterfront park, 90 km/h of swirling wind driving a mix of fresh rain and salt spray at us from every direction, zip-loc-bagged Androids in hand. Because in a big Ingress op, you gotta do what you gotta do. Yeah, I’m playing again.
Back Story · (You can get the full-length version in Ingress, Things About Ingress, Ingress, Month 3, Ingress Weekly, Ingress Tourism, Advanced Ingress, Ingress Chase Scene, Ingress Ebb and Flow, and The Ingress Social Network): I got interested in late 2012, played off and on through last May, then faded away, bored. Last autumn I started missing the outdoor walking, the people, and oh yeah, the game too, so ramped back up. I don’t play every day but most weeks get in one or two extended walks whatever the weather.
It’s expanded my social circle, offered loads of laughs, and reinforced my beliefs about online communities.
Boomstick · But first, back to last Sunday. This was Operation wow. much BAFs. such covered. many MU, the Canadian piece of Operation #Boomstick (maybe Yanks are better at naming things); our part included 1000km of linkage and 500K “Mind Units”, Ingress’ scoring currency. Here are pictures of two phases of the operation, which for a short while gave the Resistance (blue) faction multi-layered coverage of both Seattle and Vancouver.
The way a big op works is there are operators who watch the map and run the show, linkers who go to the corners and throw the long links, and clearers who fan out and bust the obstacles to those links. Obviously, weeks of preparation are required to get the links planned and the keys dealt out.
In Sunday’s op, Shoekey and I were the clearing party for the shortest of the big triangles’ sides. We drove in my van with his 9-year-old in the back seat telling us about Grade Four life. The weather was unspeakable; while we were out Ingressing, my house was damaged by a big limb ripped off the neighbors’s maple.
Vancouver · Last winter, control swung back and forth between the factions, and my side was fighting from behind into late summer. Then there was a big Ingress event, starting on October 12, called #13Magnus; in Vancouver it was a damn close thing but we won.
Here’s a post-event picture including both sides.
And here’s the winning team. Sharp-eyed readers will spot me in both.
That put us on a roll and Vancouver’s been a pretty blue city between then and now.
It’s not that we’re any smarter or braver or anything, just that we have more active high-level players, one or two with organizational gifts, who co-ordinate when that’s needed.
One of the best results of that co-ordination is a cluster of 140 or so portals in a big cemetery (part of it illustrated on the right), which we manage to maintain at L8 status most of the time. It’s a delightful place to stroll around so we do, rebuilding as necessary and farming incessantly; most of us are stupidly, excessively well-armed.
It’s a tourist attraction in the not-that-small-any-more world of Ingress; out-of-towners (from both sides) visit to farm or to attack. We think it may be the world’s biggest, measured by some combination of number of portals, them being at Level 8, and being held more or less continuously by one faction for a long time.
I’m sure the other side will come back and probably eventually dominate Vancouver; and that’s just fine.
What it feels like · It feels good; you sync up with some other people, go somewhere, and stroll around playing and chatting — it’s not a game that consumes 100% of your mental bandwidth.
Sure, a lot of the talk is about the finer points of the game, but lots isn’t and since many players come from milieux way unlike mine, I find it mind-expanding.
Really, it enriches life. I’ve seen stories about players getting tattoos, marrying each other, and I personally know of people who’ve taken intercontinental flights for a crucial piece of some big op. Those big ops; the adrenaline rush you get when zero hour approaches is memorable and then some.
If you’re not playing, consider giving it a try. Plenty of people who “aren’t the kind of person that plays games” are. Some of them are frankly just doing it for the weight loss and good company; nothing wrong with that. Mind you, we now have Monday-night cross-faction beers to counteract the exercise benefits.
Community · Ingress players hang out online with each other when they’re not out pounding the ground. In Vancouver, both factions use G+; in other places I gather it’s WhatsApp and so on. And of course there’s the in-game chat. Recently, about a year into the game, a cross-faction moderators’ community self-organized.
It tries to defuse portal disputes, cheating accusations, and the (very rare) outbursts of actual fisticuffs. Among the more enthusiastic players there are those who wonder why anyone would spend time with the other side doing this sort of boring talk-heavy stuff; and no explosions!
But we know: online communities self-destruct when left untended; like gardens, they need nourishment, fences, and the occasional application of cold-steel pruning.
We still have interpersonal issues and bad behavior because this is the Internet. But I’m optimistic that we can keep this a generally pleasant place for a long time; it’s become a useful tool in my long-term project of aging gracefully.