INGRESS MISSION DAY: FAIRBANKS

Mission Day Fairbanks is an Ingress Live Event. For those of you unfamiliar with Ingress, it is a massively-multiplayer augmented reality mobile game that requires you visit real-world locations. Ingress is the first game developed by Niantic, Inc. (Doesn’t sound familiar? You may have heard of Niantic’s second game, Pokémon Go.)

Ingress players from Oregon, Texas, Washington, Arizona, and New York, as well as Alaskans from Anchorage and Willow arrived in Fairbanks to take part in Mission Day Fairbanks earlier today.  Already, they are exploring our town on foot, via FAIRBIKES, and using the MAC system in search of portals. Portals are real-world locations, significant landmarks: public art, memorials, notable buildings, etc. Ingress players, Agents, must physically go to the location to complete their missions.

Ingress, is built around a sci-fi storyline involving otherworldly creatures called Shapers who want to control the world’s minds through an energy force called “exotic matter.” At its most basic level it is a game of Capture the Flag except you are playing locally and globally capturing and connecting Portals all over the world.

You can play the game on your own, but like all MMOs it’s more fun to play it with others. Ingress lets you play with others in the real world and virtually – simultaneously which is what sets Ingress apart from other MMO’s. There are two teams, factions, in the game: the Enlightened (represented by the color green) and the Resistance (by the color blue).

 Any game designed as an MMO is meant to include a degree of social gameplay. What Niantic developers didn’t anticipate was their player’s desire to co-create the experience or perhaps more accurately, hijack it.  Often hearing a story inspires us to tell one of our own, this is at least part of why most Ingress players consider it a richer and more entertaining experience than Pokémon Go.

 

Ingress uses Google Plus and YouTube, where there’s regular faux newscast designed by the game creators to convey the story line and build in clues about upcoming expansions. The Ingress players I know don’t care about the storyline – which by most accounts is pretty cheesy. Besides they all have much better stories to tell.  Your best Ingress Story – reddit.com

 

Local Ingress Agent for the Resistance, DrGwendolyn, describes snowshoeing a half mile through knee deep snow to capture a strategic portal during his weekly commutes from Fairbanks to Anchorage and back.

 

Others recount how last fall,  Chinese Resistance Agents contacted the Alaska Resistance about a portal in Point Hope, Alaska. They needed a link taken down.  Links are the anchor points for control fields, areas bounded by three links, controlled by the faction that throws it, and once in place can block new fields from going up – which is how global and regional scoring is determined.

 

The problem was that the Point Hope Portal (which is remote even by Alaskan standards) was currently controlled and guarded by an Enlightened player (the portal was near his workplace). An Alaskan Resistance agent volunteered for the mission, the Anchorage Resistance crowdfunded the cost of a plane ticket, and Resistance Agent, EmteeAK, then flew 700 miles to capture the portal, much to the surprise of the resident Enlightened Agent, Roit.

 

The stories are fun, told in good humor, and are sometimes epic in nature. Which should surprise no-one. Games (board games, video games, tabletop, role playing, etc) require us to take action. Playing a game invites experimenting with possibility, looking at others from a different perspective, and making mistakes – because that is how we learn to play games. The beauty of Ingress, is that integral to the game is the creation of a real – global – community which supports that learning.

 

If Niantic decides to create a Traveler’s badge, then Agent AvidBrandy, who came to Fairbanks specifically to participate in the Mission Day event, is already well on his way to earning it. He began his journey in Pasadena, CA. in September of 2016 and has been hacking portals in China, the United Kingdom, the Ukraine, most of the European Union and throughout the States for nearly a year now. When I asked if Ingress inspired this journey, he laughed, “No, but playing Ingress has meant that everywhere I go I have friends before I even arrive.” Traveling solo can be a little nerve racking, Agent AKBenji  agreed, “When I go someplace new I check in with the Ingress community. It gives me a sense of the place and makes it easier to connect with others once I am there.”

 

 

Jeremy Johnson (Resistance Agent, mcmxcAD) organized the Fairbanks MISSION DAY, which was the first to occur in Alaska.  It meant coordinating with Niantic regarding the event format. Jeremy had to create 18 new missions for the players who would come, follow-up regarding agent participation, and was required to get approval from the Fairbanks Visitors & Conventions Bureau to use images and logos. “I have heard from others coordinating Mission Days, that working with local tourism board was a struggle. Not here, Explore Fairbanks was great to work with, and made it really easy to promote our event and welcome visiting players.”

 

As the event wrapped up, I asked Jeremy, what’s been the best part of the day? Grinning he replied “The players.”