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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The Hunt for Myst-like Games for Android Mobile Phones and Tablets

Myst game logoI’m not a fan of most computer games. I have had enough violence and racing in my life to not want to invite it in through games of violence, war, racing, chasing, or bashing in heads. Among my favorite computer games are Myst and its sequels, Exile, Riven, The Revelation, and Uru, created by Cyan Worlds.

Myst and its sequels are beautiful mind games, challenging the best in us through complex puzzles accompanied by phenomenal real-life graphics. My husband and I would play these together, discussing strategies and solving the problems over meals and long drives. We’d email or instant message chat back and forth things to try or experiment with to solve the puzzles. They took our minds other places while we were in places and dealing with things we didn’t want to deal with. Great distractions, but more than that – great mind teasers.

We’ve been searching for Myst replacements for years on our desktop computers without success. With the new drive in mobile games for cell phones and tablets, we felt confident that the need for Myst-like brain games would generate something. After several years of poking, we’ve found some possibilities. Unfortunately, most of these are more like pretty maze games rather than mind-benders.

I used to think there was a difference between a Myst-like problem-solving game and a simple hidden object adventure game. As the games improve their visual quality, the simple games of finding hidden objects to solve puzzles can become as interesting as Myst-problem-solving games that require a little more brain power. I’ve included some well-reviewed hidden object games in the list below accordingly.

Myst game - the swampTo be true to the concept of a Myst game, I believe the game should put you in the key role of the player, giving you a vested interest in solving the puzzles. There should be little interaction with other characters, just you and the environment, where the pieces of the puzzle tell more of the story than the characters could. The puzzles should make you think, fuss over, and experiment with before solving, but not be too simple nor too inane. You should shout with joy when you figure them out, not groan. This is where many of the new games miss the mark. I rarely have the overwhelming impulse to jump up and down and shout, “I did it!” Or do I experience the water-cooler effect praising the game long after finishing the play.

It’s sad because we need this form of escapism today more than ever. Continue reading