Ingress – Augmented Reality Done Right

Have you ever taken a look at Pokémon Go and thought that while the concept seems interesting, the game isn’t quite your cup of tea? Allow me to introduce you to PoGo’s bigger, badder, nerdier brother: Ingress.

Ingress and Pokémon Go share many similarities – they’re both developed by Niantic Labs, they both incentivize players to get up and get out, and they even share many of the same landmark locations since Pokémon Go’s location data is a watered down version of Ingress.

The Game

In Ingress, rather than catching monsters or fighting over gyms, you’re a secret agent playing an augmented reality spy game. Agents for the game’s two factions, the Resistance and the Enlightened, fight for control over thousands and thousands of portals around the world. It’s similar to the gym system in Pokémon Go, except that literally every portal can be attacked or upgraded, and the Ingress portal network is exponentially larger than the network of Pokéstops and gyms.

Ingress Screenshot
Hack portals for gear, attack to destroy, link to score.

You can “hack” each portal for gear used to attack, capture, or defend portals. One special item you can receive when hacking is called a Portal Key, which is a key to access that specific portal. With a Portal Key you can travel and plug your Portal Key into a different portal to create an energy link between the two portals. If you can link three portals together into a triangle, it will create a field within the area you’ve cornered off and you earn points based on the size of the field you create and the population density in that area. This is the main scoring mechanism to determine global or regional scores for each faction.

Ingress Community

While linking three portals together over a large area may sound easy, there’s a catch: your links cannot cross existing links. This is where having a healthy community comes in handy. For new players, joining up with your local Ingress faction community is a must. They can help show you the ropes of the game, help you level up quickly and efficiently, and help run coordinated operations or other events.

Think you’ve got a crazy plan to create a field over a part of the city, but it’s not something you can do alone? No problem! There’s strength in numbers and in coordination, and having reliable teammates with whom to communicate will greatly enhance your experience.

Special Events

The faction communities that have sprung up around Ingress are the key to what makes the Ingress experience memorable, and will keep you coming back. Niantic will often host official events around the world that draw thousands of players working towards common goals.

Sometimes these are just cross-faction meetups where everybody gets to just hang out, and sometimes they have special missions associated with them.

Ingress - Augmented Reality Done Right
A cross-faction meetup in San Antonio with agents from all over Texas, and beyond!

Ingress recently just wrapped up a global “shard” event where puzzle pieces known as shards appeared around the world at random portals. Each team was given several target portals where they could move the shards and score for their team. International cooperation between agents was necessary to move shards around the world from their spawn points in places like Brazil, Norway, Ukraine, or the Philippines to Korea, Indonesia, Paris, Seattle, and San Antonio.

Ingress - Augmented Reality Done Right
This shard spawned in Brazil and made its way through Peru and Mexico before finally arriving at its goal in Texas.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to compete in an event held in partnership with GORUCK, where they designed a special scavenger hunt all throughout the city. We had teams of about 7 agents each, and we had to locate and hack specific portals all throughout downtown San Antonio, with no cars or other transportation allowed. You hoofed it, hacked it, and went on to the next target. Bonus “cool points” were awarded for teams completing physical challenges or taking pictures of your team with things like war memorials, serving drinks in bar, among other things.

Ingress - Augmented Reality Done Right
Our team tries to score additional “cool points” by posing with some of Texas’ finest!

I joined up with a few of my friends from my faction who have some physical limitations or were a bit out of shape like myself. Even though we finished last, we still finished and it was such a great feeling of accomplishment and camaraderie, even though we were just running around town playing a cell phone game all day.

The World Is Not What It Seems

When you first open the game, Ingress tells you that the world around you is not what it seems. That’s true. Before playing Ingress, my world was much smaller. Because of Ingress, I’ve expanded my horizons. I’ve met new people who are just as dorky and awkward as I am. And Ingress has taken me places geographically where I’d never have thought to go before. I’m almost like a tourist in my own city, getting out to see the sights with my family and discovering hidden gems I’ve never known about even though I’ve lived here for over a decade.

Much like Pokémon Go, Ingress tracks the distance you’ve walked while playing the game. Although, for Ingress it’s not to hatch eggs, it’s one of many stats tracked for in-game medals. But still it’s fun to know that in the time I’ve been playing Ingress seriously, I’ve walked over 500km. While I may have an unhealthy addiction to Ingress, at least it’s helping me to have a healthier lifestyle.

So, what are you waiting for? If this sounds fun, take the plunge and jump into the game. You’ll find thriving communities eager to help you along the way.

Let’s go, agent. It’s time to move!

Download Ingress for free on Apple or Android devices.

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Josh Nash

Josh (aka P53ud0Nym, aka jozNaz) got his start in gaming playing his uncle’s NES and his friend’s Sega Genesis. At the age of 14, he got a job, rode his bike to Kmart, and bought a Game Boy Color and Pokémon Blue. Josh enjoys RPGs, shooters, racing, and adventure games as well as teaching his two kids the ways of the Force.