Ingress: I have a new addiction. It makes me walk. It burns my phone battery. It’s good.

Ingress_Logo_vector.svgIngress was released in 2012 under open beta. It’s an augmented reality game developed by a Google startup called Niantic Labs. It has a strong science fiction back story and uncovers a hidden world in which you work with the Resistance or the Enlightened. It’s a dominance game. You have to capture key strategic points, portals, and you have to be physically at the site of a portal to do that, which means you have to move to locations in order to take them over. It is being credited with getting people physically active, and socially connected, and it’s fascinating.

The gameplay consists of establishing “portals” at places of cultural significance, such as public art, landmarks,monuments, etc., and linking them to create virtual triangular “control fields” over geographical areas. Progress in the game is measured by the number of “mind units” (MUs) captured via such control fields, i.e. people nominally controlled by each faction (as illustrated on the Intel Map). The necessary links between portals may range from meters to kilometers or hundreds of kilometers in operations of considerable logistical complexity. International links and fields are not uncommon, as Ingress has attracted an enthusiastic following in cities worldwide amongst both young and old, to the extent that the gameplay is itself a lifestyle for some, including tattoos. – Source

Wellington Region Ingress Map
Wellington Region Ingress Map

Ingress is very simple. Portals are created by players finding sites of interest and submitting them. Once they are approved, they are then contestable. You choose to play one of two sides, the Resistance, or the Enlightened. Portals are fought over by players from each faction.

In order to capture a portal you have to be on top of it or next to it. That means you have to move around to get close to them before they can be captured or alternatively strengthened. Portals can be hacked to give you weapons, boosters, and other items.

This world around you is not what it seems. Our future is at stake, and you must choose a side.

A mysterious energy has been unearthed by a team of scientists in Europe. The origin and purpose of this force is unknown, but some researchers believe it is influencing the way we think. We must control it or it will control us.

”The Enlightened” seek to embrace the power that this energy may bestow upon us.

”The Resistance” struggle to defend, and protect what’s left of our humanity.

As you progress in the game you level up. Each level is obviously more powerful than the previous and a level 1 player attacking a portal held by a level 8 player for example, doesn’t have a hope in hell.

Points are further scored by linking portals together. If I have three portals and link them to each other, again by visiting each one, then based on the population living in the area covered, the faction and the player score more points. These are called fields.

Sparc Portal on Willis Street in Wellington CBD
Sparc Portal on Willis Street in Wellington CBD

As of January 2015, over seven million players exist globally, and it grows every day.

Morka has been playing Ingress since it launched in 2012. By now he’s covered 7,992 kilometers in augmented reality, visited 15,794 portals and destroyed 258,063 resonators. The longest link he’s made between two portals was a legendary 594 kilometers. – Source “The King of Augmented Reality Street Fighting”

Like any massive multiplayer online game, there is a social side as well. There are Enlightened and Resistance groups in Wellington that regularly meet in order to take down difficult portals. Groups exist all over the planet and regular events are undertaken.

It’s very competitive.


Wellington man Mark Byrne hired a helicopter to “capture” Makara on Friday, August 8, 2014 as part of the online game Ingress.

Resistance member Philip Dowie decided to foil his Wellington enemies by capturing the Makara portals on Wednesday by helicopter, since the station is closed on ground-level for a two-month lambing season.

”There’s a certain level of crazy that you need to go and do something like that,” the 31-year-old Johnsonville software developer said.

The flight cost Dowie and fellow Resistance agent Carson Thomas-Boon $575, money wasted when the Enlightened sent their own helicopter to capture Makara on Friday. – Source

In some ways Ingress is similar to the game Mancala. You can teach the very basic moves to a five year old. It also allows for very strategic and layered thinking. For example, a low level player capturing a portal surrounded by higher level portals best stay underground. Attacking those other portals will alert the enemy to the fact you were in the area, putting your portal at risk. Portals that are further from civilisation are more easily defended given their accessibility.

Missions can be carried out to gain more experience points. For example, a mission might get you to walk a line of portals across Mt Victoria.

While I tried the beta back in 2012, Ingress now has enough players to make it interesting. Being the only player in Wellington back in 2012 was a lonely existence and the game was as buggy as hell. Now it has grown up into something quite interesting. For me, carrying my winter excess, its a great excuse to get out and get moving around, especially as spring is just around the corner.

Ingress can be downloaded from the Google Play or Apple Stores


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