Inside Ingress, Google's new augmented-reality game

by Casey Newton

I was among the first to play Ingress, Google's strange new augmented reality game that is delivered via smartphone:


The thing about layering things onto a world that can only be seen via smartphone is that it tends to make the real world look boring by comparison. On my smartphone, I was capturing portals and linking them to far-flung places; in the real world, I was a guy standing on a corner dodging people heading back to the office after lunch. Alternate reality games promise a kind of magical intersection between real and virtual worlds; Ingress, at least at this early stage, hasn't quite delivered it.

Some popular ARGs have managed to incorporate physical clues into their gameplay -- having players pick up a ringing pay phone in the middle of the city to hear a snippet of narrative, for example, or finding clue inside a bowling alley inscribed on a bowling ball. But unless the budget for Ingress is larger than expected, it's hard to imagine Google leaving physical clues around the world.

"One of the limitations of having a global game like this, where everyone can play, is it becomes much harder to pull through those physical aspects," Andersen said.