The World of Daman Beatty

Google’s Augmented Reality Mash-Up Game Ingress Alarms National Security


First released back in 2012, Ingress is a MMO augmented reality game for Android devices (iOS version expected this year) created by Niantic Labs, a startup within Google. Ingress is a sci-fi game with a really cool story that sees a new form of energy discovered. There are two warring factions who want to make use of this energy and you play in one of them. They are the Resistance and the Enlightened. There has been some rumblings that Hollywood has come calling to make a movie based on this.

Ingress though is not a shooting game like you would expect with a story like this. Instead it makes use of your device’s GPS, Google Maps and camera. On the screen of your device you see a map of the area you are in and on the map you will see things like exotic matter, portals and a few other items that can help you along your way as well.

Ingress Android Gameplay Screenshot
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The interesting twist of Ingress is that you need to actually be physically near these places to activate them in the game. It makes Ingress a really fun and interesting game and also gets you out of the house walking around to visit these places.

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Ingress is also a team-based multiplayer online game. You earn individual points to level up. Teams earn points by creating geographically linked triangles.

Ingress Location in Real Life Portal
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So you may have to be in an art museum, a place of business or maybe even a military base! And that my friends is where all the commotion is coming from in regards to this game.

Ingress, The World Around You is Not what it seems
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You see there are some portals in the game that are located in places that members of the public are not allowed to go such as a Navy base. And there have been reports that random members of the public have been able to get onto these bases in order to progress in their game. Of course the military is less than happy with having civilians coming into their base in order to play a video game and to be fair you can really see why.

For some people this is seen as a threat to national security as you could have a person coming onto the base who wants to do harm, steal something or whatever, but they could be using the video game as a mask so it looks like they are really not looking to do anything wrong. Of course this is a pretty extreme example, but you have to think if people are getting onto bases easily it is a cause for concern.

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Google have not commented on why they put portals within military bases, but it’s likely they just didn’t think it through. A few higher ups in the military have made comments and generally recommended that people in the forces not get involved with the game.

While Ingress has a dedicated following, it is still not mainstream, but with increasing coverage due to the controversy over restricted military locations, we can bet on two things happening. One is that Ingress will gain a huge influx of new players, and two, it’s safe to assume that Google will be updating Ingress a pretty big update removing some of those “top secret” locations.

In retrospect, it makes you wonder if adding them was part of a brilliant marketing ploy. What are your thoughts?