Mobile game captures UA
Adam Osman, electrical and computer engineering senior, takes a picture of Joesph Wood Krutch Garden on the UA Mall for the Ingress app on Tuesday. Ingress is now free for Android and iOS.
Bear Down Gym, Old Main and the Engineering building. All some of the most recognizable spots on the UA campus, but to some, these are the trenches of a battle that started in late 2012. Google’s reality-bending mobile game Ingress is now available for both iOS and Android, and the game turns the UA campus, and the entire world, into a battlefield.
Created by Niantic Labs, a startup company within Google, Ingress players use their phones to capture portals, which are landmarks, art installations and important historical and cultural locales. Unlike most games where the player navigates the game world using a controller or an in-game interface, players need to move around the real world with their GPS-enabled smartphones to play the game.
“I definitely sit less at my PC,” said Adam Osman, an electrical and computer engineering senior and a local Resistance faction player. “I walk laps around the arts college area, student union, UMC and the Highland area after and in between classes, after work and during study breaks.”
When players first start the game, they are asked to choose between the Enlightened and Resistance factions. Ingress’s story is told through in-game media, YouTube videos, cryptic images posted on social media and real life caches and is directly influenced by players’ actions within the game. Many players find Ingress enjoyable because it requires teamwork and coordination to be successful.
“[My best experience was] playing for the first time with a bunch of other players after the faction meeting,” said Mathew Tate, a computer and electrical engineering sophomore and local Enlightened player. “It was awesome working together with a bunch of (former) strangers, instantly making friends and having fun exploring a new place, all after eating at a great restaurant I’d never been to before.”
To score points for their faction, players need to capture and fortify portals to claim them for their side. Players then link these portals together in a triangle to create a field over that area. Creating fields scores points for their faction and creating large and complex fields often requires coordination among multiple people. Ingress players can communicate using an in-game chat feature but many players gather in Google Plus communities for their city and state.
With over five million downloads on Android, and the huge influx of new players due to the iOS release, Ingress has players in every corner of the world. Regional communities often coordinate with each other to pull off impressive in-game operations such as creating a field that covers the majority of Western Europe, or creating a field that connects Russia and Canada to cover the North Pole.
“The biggest positive experience is forming newfound relationships with individuals that I would not have formed if not for the game,” Osman said. “Going out for drinks with strangers and having a fantastic social experience with not only your teammates, but the opposing team as well. Even when I was visiting other cities and my home country of Hong Kong, I was able to meet up with local players and socialized through a common interest.”
Ingress is now available for no cost on iOS and Android. Ingress requires a constant data connection, so smartphones are recommended over tablets. Be sure to meet up with your local community to maximize your fun.
Niantic Labs also sponsors official events that advance the story towards one factions favor. These “Anomalies” are hosted in cities throughout the world and people will travel far across the country and cross international borders to attend them. One of these dedicated players is UA alumna Evy Lizárraga who is a local member of the Enlightened faction. In November 2013, Niantic created an Anomaly event where items called shards were scattered across portals around the planet that could be moved around connected portals. Once a shard hit Arizona, Lizárraga was there.
“I drove for six hours just to get to the portal,” Lizárraga said.
The goal for the Resistance faction was to get the shards to Buenos Aires, Argentina, while the Enlightened faction attempted to sabotage them and get them to San Francisco.
“I stayed and guarded the portal for three straight days with little sleep, minimal food, and slept in the car outside the portal,,” Lizárraga said., “I couldn’t allow the Resistance to take the shard by creating a link towards Buenos Aires. Once I guarded it for three days, all the pieces were moving.”
Lizárraga’s efforts were not in vain. The Enlightened faction won that anomaly and Lizárraga got to run a victory lap.
“One month later, I was in San Francisco for an Ingress event and I was the person to ‘bring the shard home,,’” Lizárraga said., “I am the one that brought it into the correct portal in San Francisco. Another Ingress player paid all my expenses just so that I can make one link to bring it home since I was the agent that spent the most time around a shard.”
“When I was going through a rough time in life, I had to stop playing for a few consecutive months,” UA alumna Evy Lizárraga said. “That was difficult to do, but my Ingress friends are the ones that helped me out of it without me even playing. They are true friends that I’ve gained from this game.”