“When you show leadership, people will recognize you very fast.”
May 8, 2019 9:51 AM   Subscribe

"At first, Meng hadn’t wanted to get involved in the Resistance. But she made an ideal agent, which is why they recruited her. She traveled a lot for work, and made enough money that she could travel extensively outside of it. ... In 2016, some friends convinced her to start doing them small favors on her travels, little side-trips that wouldn’t take her too far out of her way. Within a year, 25-year-old Meng was planning and executing some of the group’s most ambitious operations while working another job full-time." How an Augmented Reality Game Escalated into Real-World Spy Warfare
posted by the man of twists and turns (20 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

Ingress is so insidious - I got sucked in and made a bunch of real-life friends. Great fun and a great time-suck. Then the game started to feel like work instead of fun, but stopping playing would leave my teammates in the lurch so I kept playing longer than I wanted to. When I finally quit I felt like Shorty Boy (NSFW language).
posted by exogenous at 9:59 AM on May 8, 2019

I like the idea of a game like Ingress; but when I have thought about playing it, I've been able to see that it would be one of those things that kind of takes over my life and drains my time and energy and eventually ceases to be fun.

I guess points for me being mature enough to see that about myself.
posted by nubs at 10:10 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Cold War Reenactment Society link was delightful, The Whelk. Thank you for posting it.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2019

Thanks, I wrote it!
posted by The Whelk at 10:58 AM on May 8, 2019 [6 favorites]

I played Ingress briefly, but the PvP aspect really put me off of it.
posted by chronostachyon at 11:31 AM on May 8, 2019

I played Ingress... well till Pokemon Go came out... but was never that heavily involved in the community. Oh sure I met up with people when I traveled for work and did some of the anomalies. but yeah even back then I saw that if I let it the game would become a total time suck.

I also saw how a few mean spirited players definitely did a great deal to spoil the fun for other players. One of the sadest expamples was there was a goal for individual players, called Guardian, where you would try to control a particular portal for 150 days straight. Usually you would pick a few portals that were pretty remote that people didn't bother with (there are lots of these). Fill it up and try to remotely babysit them. It was a pretty straightforward thing and if you were playing regularly wasn't very hard. But certain players would use third party tools to figure out what portals people were babysitting and then on day 149 would go well out of their way to destroy it. There was no reason to do it, nothing gained except 'hurting' someone you'd likely never met and never would.

As it is playing it casually and the reasonably casual way I play Pokemon Go have been just fun, they've gotten me out of the house more often and gotten me to be social with people I'd have never met. But yeah there was a darker side for sure.
posted by cirhosis at 11:35 AM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I played Ingress for several years, starting with the Beta version in the bay area (the Alpha was internal to google). Local players ended up getting invited to google to Niantic's building to make suggestions, and while I can't say that I am responsible, there was a rule change that matched a suggestion I made which I felt proud of.

I haven't played in years, but I was definitely more active physically when I played, and got to do cool things like wander through the San Jose Rosicrucian Museum's outdoor space at night. Playing Ingress made me notice artwork and sculptures and parks that I never would have seen, and I met nice people, and you don't have to put in time if you don't want to.

One thing they don't mention, There are at least 3 Resistance Players for every 2 Enlightenment players, arguably because Resistance sounds cooler. I was in the Enlightenment, which was frustrating at times.
posted by gryftir at 11:44 AM on May 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

The article was very interesting, but I kept waiting for the part where it would escalate into real world spy warfare and it never did.
posted by starfishprime at 11:56 AM on May 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

How an Augmented Reality Game Escalated into Real-World Spy Warfare

The article was very interesting, but I kept waiting for the part where it would escalate into real world spy warfare and it never did.

Me too. From the title I was totally expecting this to be an Assassination of Kim Jong-Nam / Ender’s Game style twist ending, where it turned out that Meng had been used by a cat’s paw by some intelligence service and was running real-life agents, making dead-drops and so on while believing that she was only turning beacons on a map from green to yellow or whatever.

Still, the part where someone betrayed them and their massive logistical operation in the middle of nowhere ended up getting blown pressed a lot of my reading-about-EVE-Online buttons.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 12:03 PM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I spent an afternoon a few years ago driving way out to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, hanging out in a library, and waiting for the exact time to take over a lone portal that would allow our side to envelop all of Tucson. When I got back to the city that night, I walked into the bar where everyone was meeting up to a standing ovation.

I still fantasize about moving to that little town someday. It was a really nice library. Having a reason to go out and adventure in random places was a blast.

But after being physically threatened over gameplay, I gave it up. A single mall-ninja with a chip on his shoulder made playing insufferable for most of the people in our area, and the distributed nature of the game didn't give a lot of recourse. Another reminder of the value of strong moderation in online communities.
posted by MrVisible at 12:11 PM on May 8, 2019 [9 favorites]

I never played Ingress, but I wanted to take the opportunity to point out there's an animated series based on it on Netflix presently for... some reason.
posted by mordax at 12:49 PM on May 8, 2019

I never played Ingress, but I wanted to take the opportunity to point out there's an animated series based on it on Netflix presently for... some reason.

All hail Content, the new god for which all things shall be mined.
posted by nubs at 1:24 PM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's so annoying that cheating appears to be common in the game. What is the point, really?
posted by smoke at 2:23 PM on May 8, 2019

It's interesting comparing her reaction to the betrayal and/or hacking compared to what goes on in Eve. I'm curious what parts of her background led to those feelings, especially given that the article talks a lot about Chinese players. Almost all the US players I know dropped it long ago, especially after Pokemon Go came out. I'm reminded of some of the cultural differences between German and US board game players so I wonder if it's cultural or simply the type of people attracted to the game.

What is the point, really?

Griefers are going to grief. Causing it is it's own reward. In other cases, people get a dopamine hit from seeing their points go up and get the same effect whether they cheat or not.
posted by Candleman at 3:15 PM on May 8, 2019

Griefers are going to grief.

It's the social dominance orientation. Some people live to dominate others and piss on them like alpha dogs.
posted by acb at 4:34 PM on May 8, 2019

I think, for all its issues, Pokemon Go is better designed than Ingress. It was distressing when Ingress Prime was announced to be aiming for feature parity with the original Ingress, because the original Ingress's design has a lot of degenerate strategies and if you're just going to replicate them in a buggier app then what's the point. I lost interest when there was an anomaly in my city, and I discovered the way you win anomalies is to have more people frantically attacking/refilling energy as fast as the app will let them than the other team does. I got a taste of high-level play and it was very bad.
posted by Merus at 4:45 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Pokemon Go is definitely a simpler game than Ingress, and thus the sort of highly coordinated missions Meng and her fellow players planned aren't necessary. But a lot of the arc of her story feels very familiar. I don't play Pokemon Go nearly as much as I used to, but when I was super involved it was fantastic. It's one of the few times in my adult life that I've made so many friends in such a short period of time; it was like grafting onto my life an entirely new social life. We had our fair share of ridiculous missions as well, though none approach the complexity or organization of anything in the article.

But when the magic's gone, it really is gone. And you can get it back sometimes—I actually quit Pokemon Go once before I came back for raids and met all the people I know now from the game—but sometimes you can't, and that's okay. That feeling especially of not missing the game very much once you decide to cut ties rings true to me.

Maybe one day I'll get a cat.
posted by chrominance at 4:56 PM on May 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

There was a point in my life where the only time I’d ever been to New Jersey was for the airport and to drive around at 3am with some guys for an Ingress op.

The article makes me really nostalgic for the time I was super involved in my local community. I don’t play as much anymore but I’ve made some really strong friendships with agents including people in my neighborhood I never would have met otherwise who I still see years later.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 3:47 AM on May 9, 2019

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