Ingress: You Only Think It’s a Game

The following is for a presentation on Ingress at Clark College for faculty and staff.

“So you think this is a game,” scoffs Agent Klue introducing the world to the augmented-reality massively multiplayer online role playing GPS-dependent game created by Niantic Labs. “The world around you is not what it seems.”

Ingress is a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), a new form of mobile game playing that supports millions of players, and for many, Ingress is not a game.

If you look at Ingress as a game, you may do the following:

  1. Collect points to achieve game levels
  2. Capture and claim territory
  3. Accomplish tasks to achieve game badges
  4. Complete missions to achieve more game badges
  5. Work with teams

What it is is more than a game. It is a lifestyle, a habit, a compulsion, a motivation, inspiration, and personal challenge to the way we are living today.

There is an active story behind Ingress. Some players dive deeply into the mystery and intrigue of the backstory, others ignore it and just play the game. The ability to do both adds layers to the game.

The game makers’ framing device for the game is as follows: Physicists at CERN have discovered that the Earth has been seeded with “Exotic Matter,” or XM, associated with the Shapers, a mysterious phenomenon or alien race which is neither described nor seen (and which thus functions as a MacGuffin). The in-universe motivation for the Enlightened faction is their belief that the Shapers are working toward a powerful enlightenment which will uplift all mankind. The Resistance believes that it is protecting humanity from Shaper ingression. The factions have, however, been occasionally observed to ignore the back-story and to co-operate for the sake of real-life gameplay and game balance, for example by establishing neutral zones and rules of engagement.
Ingress (game) – Wikipedia

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Am I Satisfied…Not Really, Sprint and Samsung

In November 2012, Google announced the Jelly Bean release of the Android mobile phone operating system. The end of March 2013, the push of Jelly Bean in the United States to Samsung and Sprint phones finally commenced.

The process of updating the phones involves downloading over 500 megabytes in a single file called “Simple Upgrade Tool. It takes hours to download on DSL but promises 15 minutes to install to your phone.

The 15 minutes is about right, but there are a whole series of steps to process as part of that 15 minutes, some of which involve taking the back off the phone and removing the battery and replacing it, unnerving to those who are not tech-savvy, and great warnings that this “flash” of the phone could destroy everything you hold dear, so add an hour or more to your time for backups and syncs of everything, redundant if you are paranoid like me.

Let me backtrack a little to show you how complicated this doesn’t have to be. I got the notice a few weeks ago that an upgrade was waiting for me. Unfortunately, I was sitting by the side of a dying friend and priorities don’t include racing to my desktop computer to download a huge file for hours, play with batteries, and USB cords. When I was ready, there were no buttons, no handy reminders, no one-click options for me to process the update. Instead, I had to do a search all over the web until I finally found a news report that led me to the download instructions, wasting more of my time as I had to find the update rather than have it awaiting me on my phone. The past two updates have been the same. This is really dumb customer service.

All so far has gone well and my phone is running through its final stages of the Android Update. Yet at the bottom of the instructional page I find this request.

Samsung and Spring - Tutorial Feedback - Did we do a good job with this document.

The request is “Did we do a good job with this document.” Well, that’s the real question.

What I read is “Did we make your life easier with this entire process?”

Yes, the document was easy to read, had big pictures, and stepped me through the process, and it matched the process for the most part that I experienced.

No, the process was not easy. Why did I have to download this huge file for hours, tying up the Internet and slowing everything down on my drip of a connection? Why did such a huge file be necessary for what took less than 15 minutes to install as an operating system on my computer? What do I do with this half gig space waster program? Uninstall it? There is no follow-through on this, Samsung. Now what?

Why couldn’t I have just woken up and found a note on my phone that said, “We adore you and want to reward you for your payment of our over-charging fees and control of a monopoly in your nation that restricts a free market for easy-to-use, affordable cell phones, by giving you the chance to push a single button to give your phone a face-lift, making it more user friendly, faster, and not so taxing on the battery or your brain.” Fifteen, or I would have given you thirty minutes, you would have had a customer not just rejoicing but praising you to the world via social media and on every street corner.

I think of those living on their phones, no laptop or desktop computer in sight. How did they handle the update?

American mobile companies be warned. We’ve taken your abuse lying down for a long time. We’ve been apathetic for far too long. One day, folks. One day we will get smarter and let our dollars do the talking for us, and you will appreciate my recommendation that you make us praise you not condemn you.

Am I satisfied? Absolutely not. Do better.

Dear Skype, Please Stop Crashing My Browser

Dear Skype:

I’ve put up with a ton of issues from Adobe Flash crashing my browsers. Now Skype is my main crash deviant.

I’ve put up with your terrible new reinstall that spawns web pages and took FOREVER recently.

You think I’m kidding.

I’ve had Skype installed since Skype began. I’m frequently teased as I’m “Lorelle” on Skype, not “Lorelle254” or some other silly name. I’m the first Lorelle that signed up for Skype, probably in your first 500-1000 registered users. I also pay for your service, so I’m qualified to rant and rave about your growing problems and my increasing frustration.

Logging in today, I was greeted by two confusing “Skype” disguised Internet Explorer browser windows. They were filled with ads but also with options and choices I had to make. I was in a hurry for a meeting and didn’t have time to mess around with reading all the stuff. I just needed to find my login.

It appeared that I would have to install Skype, so I did. Twenty minutes later, I’m now 15 minutes late for my online meeting and Skype is still not installed. Things are loading, whirling, clicking, and my state-of-the-art, powerful computer is locking up and dragging as it consumes memory and hard drive activity. Ten minutes later, it installs, but I’m still clicking around trying to just find a login. I finally find the familiar buttons and open it up, only to have those two damn Internet Explorer windows pop up, covering everything, selling me more Skype crap.

I apologize to the client and life goes on, both of us cursing Skype and browsers, and Internet software in general.

When I’m done, I’m so furious, I completely log out and quit Skype. Continue reading

Whom Should I Allow to Own Me

With the release of the Amazon Fire tablet and the eco-system they’ve created for it, it has me questioning who should I allow to own me.

As I travel the highways and byways of the web, the gate I pass through owns my data. It owns my experience. The information collected about what I do, how I do it, and what I do it with, is collected, collated, and distributed along with the data from my fellow gate travelers and used by the gate keepers then sold to companies of all kinds around the world for them to make sweeping decisions about what I do, how I do it, what I do with it, and how they can make money with me or because of me.

The gate keepers are Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Google, for the most part.

My life is already reluctantly owned by Google as I use Gmail, Google Docs, Google Apps, Google+, YouTube, Chrome, and the list goes on and on.

While my computer life started out a prisoner of Apple, I’ve years invested in ownership by Microsoft through Windows and so many of their products and hardware, including the keyboard I use to type this blog post.

Amazon, you’ve had me since the first book. Growing up in Seattle, you and Microsoft grew up with me, entering my life in college and continuing forward through today and into the future. As Amazon grew, my allegiance grew with it.

With Amazon’s Fire tablet using Google’s Android, the lines are getting blurrier and blurrier, but if I go with Fire, the flames will mostly be fueled by Amazon.

I need to get a new phone, so maybe I’ll be back with my old owner, Apple, again, reviving our connection from the 1970s and 80s.

So maybe my question is moot. Maybe I’ve unwittingly been owned by all of them.

Maybe what I’m really asking myself is which owner should I sell my soul to next.