On November 16, Google released Ingress to beta. It’s a science fiction augmented reality game that encourages moving throughout cities across the world to locate, create and link in game portals. I’ve been playing it for a couple days and I think it’s the best mobile game I’ve ever played.

In Ingress, players are split into two factions and compete to link portals that are located at real world sites. To perform well in the game, players must move throughout a city to collect points called exotic matter and to find, link and upkeep portals. Players can also photograph sites to submit as new portal spots. The two factions try to link portals so that shapes are drawn over a map. Mind points, the game’s scoring measurement, are awarded to each side for the number of people living in a shape controlled by that faction.

The moving element of the game is what I most enjoy; as someone who loves to walk, a way to include game elements in walking and incentivize going into unfamiliar places is ideal. I was already starting to walk down every street in my city, and now I have more reason for doing so. I hope the game will encourage others to walk around their cities and gain the many benefits that can bring.

The story behind the game is teased out through the website Niantic Project; daily image, video and document postings unveil a conspiracy sparked by the discovery of portals and exotic matter. Factions in the game split between those who want to spread the influence of the portals and those who wish to suppress the influence of the portals:

Join the EnlightenmentFaction attempting to help the Shapers infiltrate Earth. Followers believe that the Shapers bring a powerful enlightenment that will lift humankind.
Join the ResistanceFaction defending the Earth from the Shaper ingression. They are seen by some as being fearful of change or progress, but the Resistance is firm in its belief that it is protecting humanity.

I joined the Enlightenment because the aim of that faction most closely aligns with my thoughts about spreading technology and knowledge.

Ingress can be downloaded for Android devices from the Play Store, but an invitation must be obtained from the Ingress website before play can begin.

As another benefit, you may be improving walking directions on Google Maps.

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