Eye In The Sky #Ingress
Sometimes, we arrive at a destination sooner than we should. Under normal circumstances, discoveries or innovation arrives precisely when it means to, and the world continues on from that point.
But there are also a lot of instances when something is brought to our attention long before it can really be appreciated. One example is augmented reality or location-based apps. These aren’t new, and you’ve probably seen them in various incarnations on your smartphone. Some of them pair your camera with your phone’s GPS to provide a visual overlay displaying restaurants or points of interest, but in keeping with the theme of this site, we also have location based games like QONQR or Parallel Kingdom and soon, Ingress from none other then Google itself.
In these games, you have some sort of a task in a real geographic area of the world. You can change things up by taking a walk, or getting in your car and driving somewhere. You can collect things, fight things, and set up things in a virtual world based on where you’re physically standing with smartphone in hand. The more advanced examples will provide an augmented reality overlay like what you’d see in Generic Sci-Fi HUD Example #3761, but because most smartphones have a built in mapping app (at least the ones that work), you’ll see a lot of these games simply place their overlay on top of that.
The main problem with these games is that you can only stay in one place for so long before the “game” becomes entirely reactionary. You fire it up, tap some buttons to make stuff happen, and that’s about it. Ideally, you’ll be competing against other people in your area…which is great if you live in the urban sprawl, but if you’re like 99% of the rest of the U.S. and live outside the city, chances of you running into someone who’s also playing is fairly slim. Your only recourse in that case is that the games are technically “location neutral” by allowing the fruits of your running around to be contributed into a massive pool that benefits your chosen faction.
These games are designed around the notion that people are moving around far more frequently, and possibly much further, than they really are. It’s great when you take a weekend vacation to another town, state, or country, because you can really put the app to the test, but for those of us who mainly commute between home and work, there’s not a heck of a lot of daily variety to keep interest. But beyond that, when the game treats it’s players like a bunch of honey-bees who’s sole job is to collect resources and then throw them in a pile, one should question the MOTIVE that the game is trying to impart. What’s the driving force that makes people want to “play”? Character development is nill, and there’s barely any room for any kind of story progression, so unless the game is offering tangable rewards (hell, even a coupon to McDonalds would be SOMETHING), convincing people to log in after that initial “this is so cool!” phase is no doubt a herculean task, and a nut that has yet to be cracked.
Although people seem to be excited about Ingress, unless Google has some unheard-of plan to make it break the mold of previous location based games, I don’t see it being ground-breaking in any way. There are some whispers of being able to use Google Glass (those goofy looking, privacy destroying headset cameras) for this, but unless you want to LOOK like a character from a video game, while avoiding a beat-down from the general population that you’re filming, you’d best stick with a smartphone. Naturally, there’s a lot of people who think this is a “new thing” because Google is doing it, but at the risk of sounding like a hipster, folks waiting for an Ingress invite should check out how other AR location-based games tackle the situation. I don’t suspect Google’s will improve on it, aside from making it a lot geekier.