Just two years old and already one of the world’s largest augmented reality games, Ingress has a dedicated following in Philadelphia. You could walk the Art Museum area and not even realize it.
Developed by a division of Google, the massively multiplayer, GPS-enabled mobile game is a competition between two ever-changing teams, the Enlightened and the Resistance. Here’s the basic setup: the Enlightened believe that exotic matter, or XM, being collected will benefit the human race, while the Resistance think that XM can be used to control people.
The purpose of the game is to support either the Enlightened or the Resistance by collecting XM to perform tasks and capture portals. Portals are created by the players and are physical objects outside of the game. Portals can be murals, statues, historical sites, or approved locations by Niantic Labs, the Google subsidiary that is developing a followup. The game was initially only on Android devices when it launched in November 2012 but added iOS last year.
“It is a portal into another dimension leaking energy into this dimension,” said Ramon LaBestia, a teacher and moderator for Portal Wreckers, a group of Philadelphia-based players. “The idea is to capture the portals with your resonators and that determines the color for which the portal goes to. Green for Enlightened and blue for Resistance.”
Most players join the game by engaging in Ingress while commuting, visiting portals along their walk to the office.
XM is digital crack. Both green and blue are in a never-ending tug of war for the same thing, crack.
“There is this one portal near where I work,” said Marco Oviedo, 39, an IT professional for Republic Bank. “Its called Clock in The Ground. There is actually a clock in the ground. It is on the corner of 17th and Chestnut. I never knew it was there. I walked by there a thousand times. You walk by them all the time, but you never paid attention to what they’re called.”
Based on graphics provided to players in Ingress Intel, the Enlightened lead with about 437,000 “mind units” compared to about 312,000 for Resistance in the Philadelphia region near City Hall. When portals are connected and an area is covered in a certain color, the people under that mind unit are controlled by the team. The Philadelphia region is broken down into four sections, with the Enlightened controlling all four.
Around the world, the Resistance controls more than 497 million mind units compared to the Enlightened at 239 million mind units. Intel figures do not include specific numbers of active players by region, though the game had seven million users worldwide in the fall.
Though members of the Ingress community in Philadelphia have boasted about the local discovery and social elements of the game, others have left because the play can be so addictive.
“I lost interest in Ingress,” said Carlos Espinosa, 31, a graphic designer and former member of the Portal Wreckers. He discussed how a member left the group to join the Enlightened and play against them due to differences between players.
“XM is digital crack,” he said. “Both green and blue are in a never-ending tug of war for the same thing, crack.”
In the Philadelphia region, there are two distinct groups that fight against one another in Ingress. The Philadelphia Allied Ingress Resistance, or PAIR, and the Philadelphia Ingress Enlightened, or PIE. Both groups host local events in the Philadelphia region, yet are very adamant on protecting their identities while playing in public. These events are usually held at varying locations and members join at specific locations before the other team knows their plan.
“It is a lot of fun,” said LaBestia. “It is a great way to meet new people. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I have met through the game. It has gotten me to explore my city. I have lived in Philadelphia for a long time. There are parts of the city I only got to see because I was playing Ingress.”
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