Culture - Toby Berriman - Games Review Ingress - (credit)Niantic LabsTOBY BERRIMAN

What is Ingress? I could call it a worldwide geolocation augmented reality game based on capture the flag gameplay created by Google, but that wouldn't do it justice and would probably leave a lot of you none the wiser. It is a game you play on your phone by walking to different locations and attempting to take control of "portals" for your team. No, not pressing a button and watching a character move on screen, you actually have to pick up your phone and carry it to different locations. These portals tend to be found at congregation points, religious buildings, or places rich with human intelligence or imagination. In fact there are currently five on campus, including the Brunel Statue and the Amenities building.

A shadowy government agency called the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has been studying an energy called Exotic Matter (XM). XM is entering our world through inter-dimensional portals, and can influence the human mind. Some believe XM is being used to control us, and they form the Resistance. Others say XM enhances our minds and is leading us to evolution, these are the Enlightened. Either way XM is not just random, there is intelligence there. A communication from another civilisation? Something else?

An NIA employee leaked technology that could detect and manipulate these portals, and create fields of modulated XM to affect the minds of those within it. Rather than covering up the leak, the NIA decided to embrace the opportunity to make the public work for them and released the software as Ingress. So, Ingress is a game pretending to be a conspiracy. Or is it a conspiracy pretending to be a game?

Soon you will be welcomed into the local community and meet new people who will help you get to grips with the game, or just meet for beer and cake. It is amazing how welcoming they are. Perhaps the greatest testament to how accepting and diverse the players are would be the giant field that was created overlapping the borders of Israel, Lebanon, and Cyprus. Yes, you heard me, agents of each nationality cooperated to create a field that crossed closed borders between hostile countries!

Roughly once a month there are major events in chosen cities which coincide with developments in the storyline. Hundreds of agents turn up and local communities organise them into coordinated teams to execute the larger strategy. It becomes a game of war with long and fierce battles for control. Remember I mentioned the NIA? That isn't just back-story; the characters from the original story have ongoing roles and interact with players at events, on Google Plus, and YouTube.

Ingress is everything a game should be. It's fun, it is truly social, it will show you new things and places, may even teach you new skills, and it gets you out of the house and exercising without even realising it. Plus it's rather addictive.

Will you be Resistance or Enlightened? Choose wisely.
I'll see you on the battleground, agent. available on Android and iOS.