A few weeks ago, I started playing a virtual reality game called “Ingress” on my Android phone. (It’s a Galaxy SIII, for those of you who are interested in such things, and yes, I love it). Ingress is a game by Google, a team king of the hill game, where you capture ‘portals’ and try to connect them together; these portals exist only in virtual space, and are located in the real world at interesting locations; murals, sculptures, unique architectural designs, etc., and also important services like post offices and libraries (and Jamba Juices; don’t know how they work in, but whatevs).
I was standing next to a building when a guy on a bike rode up and waved his phone at me. He, too, plays the game, is in fact on the same team as I am (Enlightened, if you’re playing and want to know) and introduced himself. His game name is Emmes, and he’s an employee of Google that lives a few miles from me. We spoke for a minute and he invited me to join the westside Enlightened Google+ group, which I did.
So there are a few real-world effects of a game like this. I’ve met a few other players in my area, all nice guys, and chatted with several more on line. There are constantly plans to meet up, both to play the game and socialize over a drink. We have common interests and loves, and very different ones – in short, what you’d expect from a random group of strangers thrown together (well, not so random, since we’re all people who would be interested in a game of this type, but again, whatever). It’s an interesting social experiment, nonetheless.
Another effect is that people are getting out of their houses to wander the streets of their home towns. Ingress can’t be played from home; you have to be at the location of the portal in the real world to affect it in the virtual world. If you’re in a car, that means you have to drive, park, drive, park; not so efficient. Unless there are a ton of portals close together (like the Great Wall in the valley, or the Santa Monica Pier), walking is also a bit tough. Bicycling, however, is a fantastic way to get from portal to portal… and you all know how I feel about biking.
The other thing the game is doing is introducing people to the landmarks in their neighborhoods. I’ve discovered several points of interest in my neighborhood I never noticed before; a two story mural of a surfer, a local post office, several historical buildings.
If you’ve got an Android phone, you can play ingress. The website is a good place to start: there are google plus groups, and I’ve got an invite I can pass out, if you really want one.