Today, while on vacation, I received an interesting email from Google. I had finally gotten accepted into the Niantic labs ingress closed beta of the game Ingress. I had completely forgotten about the game except for the app that was installed on my phone. I quickly fired up the app and to my pleasant surprise, the game began. Ingress, if you don’t know, is a massive augmented reality game. You go through the game gathering a resource called XM by physically moving from place to place. Tonight, after playing for about 20 minutes, I was pretty exhausted. Granted, I was in the sand, and I had no idea what I was doing, but it was still pretty amazing. Because many of the hotspots are centers of tourism, I see this raising a lot of awareness for local spots in town. I know that before today, I had no interest in going the US post office in San Juan, but now I wouldn’t mind considering there is a giant portal located there. Anyway, read on for more info and a bunch of screenshots.

To begin with, the game has the look and feel of something you might encounter in the terminator universe. Throughout the game, they insist that you are not playing a game, but are part of a global revolution. Considering that chat is intergrated, and you are able to communicate with others, it does in fact feel like you are part of a resistance. Everyone I have met in the game so far is in character, and takes the game very seriously. It gives it a level of realism that I am loving.

When you first activate the game, you are asked to create a codename. As you can see, the art is very sparse, and reminiscent of something off a high tech movie.

Even the Location request is made to look like part of the game.

There are two factions, the Enlightened and the Resistance. The Enlightened in my mind are the bad guys. They embrace the oncoming new power and are trying to get others to join. They kind of remind me of a new age LDS group. Once you choose though, you can’t change your mind. You have to stick with it. I figure in this scenario, I would probably join the Enlightened anyway.

Me basically trying to get my bearings. I had no idea what I was doing, or what I needed to do, but I figured it out quickly.

See those two little dots on the map? Thats XM. You need to gather that stuff. I had to run through the beach to a park next to our rented house to get those.

More immersion in the “game.”

The graphics are pretty decent, if a bit sparse.

And the backstory!

It let me in!

So, in a nutshell that’s it. Think of it as a digital scavenger hunt, with weapons, items and other goodies. Ok, so you want to play huh? Unfortunately, Google has locked it down, and you need a code to get in. The game also has a recruit feature, but so far I have no invites. I am trying to figure out how to get more, and if I do, we will do a give-away here on the site. So far the game is entertaining, and today I found myself exercising by accident (I started jogging to the XM because I was afraid someone might steal it), which is a good thing. Lets see if Google can make this game a little more accessible now.