Ingress: Dangers and First Impressions

I push through the front doors of the US Post Office, my eyes still glued to my Ingress exotic matter (XM) scanner. I’m so going to hack this portal! “Target Acquired,” my cell phone chirped and loud enough for a few other patrons to notice. Oh crap, I may have just made a poor life decision, I thought as I glanced around the federal building.

Ingress is a new augmented reality game created by Google’s Niantic Labs. Imagine a cross between Pac Man, Foursquare, Geocaching, and Capture the Flag all rolled into one app on your phone. You run around town looking at a Google Map-like view gathering energy so that you can capture and defend geographically-distributed portals against an enemy faction.

Luckily, I walked away from my first big Ingress encounter unscathed, unfrisked, and undetained. But, I’m now picturing very different scenarios in the near future with people suspiciously circling buildings, eyes glued to their phones that occasionally make scary, threatening, futuristic sounds. Just ask the Mooninites or that student wearing art composed of exposed electronics, but it doesn’t seem to take much to freak people out these days.

Mooninites
Mooninite device that people freaked out about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Boston_bomb_scare . Image from Wikipedia.

The game has placed portals on a number of sites that the broader citizen base may not appreciate seeing trampled including federal buildings, libraries, and even some public middle school grounds. Fire departments also appear to be a very popular location for portals. One fire department with a portal I investigated could not be hacked without driving or walking up into their parking lot, potentially blocking their garage. I took a moment to talk with the on-duty firefighter at the station to get his take on the game and to see if anyone had notified them that their station would now be a part of some geeky capture the flag game. Nope. He hadn’t heard of it and while he sounded intrigued by the concept he did not like the idea of increased traffic pulling into their parking lot. As a local homeowner, I have to agree.

The game is still in beta and perhaps one goal is to identify some of these concerns before unleashing the nerd hordes. Suspected terrorist and arsonist concerns aside, this has been a pretty entertaining game. I’ve hoped for an augmented reality game like this for awhile and I think the folks at Niantic Labs have done a great job. It’s even provided enough motivation for me to get a little extra exercise in as I take walking breaks to hack and recharge portals. I don’t know how the game dynamics will change or scale once more people join the action, but it definitely has my attention for the time being.

Just think twice if Google tells you to visit the local fire department at night and lets revisit portal placement. Make good life choices.

Ingress Activity
Snapshot of Ingress activity in Durham (Nov 2012)

4 responses to “Ingress: Dangers and First Impressions

  1. I think that increasing the targeting range to 50m would be sufficient. I ran into a portal this afternoon that was placed off to the side of a traffic circle in a local open air mall. Easy peasy if there’s a parking space open. But that happens basically never.If you eventually get the opportunity to place a portal, it makes sense to do so in a vehicle friendly location, particularly considering that this is November, and hiking 100m down a pedestrian path to get within 35m of a portal in suburbia will suuuuuck in February in everwhere that’s not the Southwest. =)Geocachers do this sometimes. I’ve found geocaches located inside the nooks and crannies of lights and telephone poles located in the ‘outer reaches’ of a parking lot.

  2. Or we switch back to Unique locations in an area.  Post Offices and Fire Depts are not unique.  Btw, nothing gets you on edge than approaching a Nuclear Sub Reactor trainer that has a historic marker thus it is a portal.  Yea, they will not stand for folks circling their building.

  3. All locations for portals in this game should be in places where you will not get hassled or arrested for trespassing.  Post offices are generally open to the public, sure.  But trying to destroy a resonator in their back parking lot that is fenced off (with razor wire topping the fences) at 10 PM?  That’s almost grounds for a call to the police even if you weren’t planning to cross the fence.  Blocking the parking lot of local fire stations?  That’s downright dangerous.Think about it, Niantic.  How many people will play the game once they start getting arrested?

  4. Im playing ingress for a long time and long time it take to realise how pointless that game is.In time you i mean players also get to this conclusion.besides what benefits u have.ask yourself..

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