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Meeting strangers in the street (lauramichet.com)
149 points by CmdrKrool on Sept 26, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 78 comments

I started Ingress thinking it would be fun, good exercise, and force me to explore my city more. Instead, I stared into my phone until I arrived at a Zipcar parking spot which, through whatever agreement existed between Google and Zipcar, was a point of interest in the game.

I quit, and I've never been tempted to play again. Just going for a walk without my phone is much nicer.

I actually started to track down where you live to find what city you're talking about. I was going to find that portal and prove to you that the fact it's a Zipcar parking spot is a pure accident; there are lots of portals at commercial spaces (bars, restaurants) submitted by users because there is something special and important to local culture about them, and no one is making any deals.

In the middle of my search I stumbled upon this:



I didn't knew about it before. I'm not sure what to think about it. Maybe it's fair that they did it; I need to read more. But I'm getting worried.

The moment they'll try to monetize players will be the moment this game will die. People will leave with a bad taste in their mouths. I'll leave with a bad taste. Someone will step up, make a similar game. But it won't be the same anymore. It won't be The Game.

So dear NIA, please don't screw up what you created. Don't sacrifice the game to Moloch for a quick buck.

I wonder how else they could monetize this game that would not leave a bad taste in the player's mouth though. It is a free game after all and so far there's no banner ads or any sort of direct monetization happening within the app itself.

Since they need to pay for the servers and the app's development, what would be the best way to sustainably develop this app while also not turn off players by charging some money in some way?

I was under the impression that Ingress data would be used to augment/improve google's maps and location information.

You can get some nice gear too if you buy Hint brand flavored water!

I suspect the same applies to most things one can do with or without a phone.

Native advertising strikes again!

The 20th century word, "dishonesty", is so much less cool-sounding.

Actually, the 20th century had a few different words for it, like "advertorial", "product placement", etc.

The writing on this piece is so elegant and smooth. I didn't even care about the game really, I would pay money to read this woman's autobiography. Or writing about eating candy bars. Or anything. And she has a blog! I'm having one of my 'the internet is amazing' moments.

I've never heard of Ingress before, I wasn't sure if I was reading some genius surrealist piece or if this was real.


I played Ingress in way early beta when most the portals were just fire stations, post offices, and landmarks. I found myself driving through local towns until 3 AM to claim "just one more."

I quit after maxing out a level 8 because it was just so repetitious.

They've since added badges and upped it to level 16 but I can't find the motivation. =(

Initially it was exciting, but I got turned off when I realized how much the two sides hate each other, and how much that hate festered into petty dramas.

The last thing I need is a reason to hate on and talk shit about other people for a completely made up reason

The game is full of in-group/out-group dynamics, but it really depends on players in the area.

I met people treating this game too seriously. People who turned Ingress into source of interpersonal dramas. I met people from the other team, who looked at me with angry eyes when we shaked hands. And then I met others; I stood there at 3 AM in the park surrounded by a family playing for the other team. The father was telling me interesting stories while at the same time his wife and kid were kicking my butt in-game. We had a good laugh and went our separate ways. I had a lot of friendly chat exchanges with "enemy" players.

Like with all competing groups - whether political, sports, business or videogame - hating is a choice. Play by the rules, steer away from people who seek excuses to hate others, have fun and remember that both sides are playing the same game.

Whats up with the 3 AM part? Is ingress so addictive that you keep playing till 3 AM ?

I was doing something late at night (probably working on a hobby project, but I don't remember). I was just going to bed, when I got a warning notification that someone is attacking a portal near my flat. It was a player I came to recognize by nickname because she was constantly retaking the few portals that are next to my home. I decided it's an opportunity to finally meet her, to connect the nickname to a face, so I dressed up and run down to the park.

Upon arrival I met someone with a phone hiding in the shadows near a fence. I just stood there, countering her actions and waiting to be noticed. A kid yelled, "mom! are you coming?", to whom she replied "yes, just wait one minute". After that she noticed me standing there, so she told her kid to go and bring his dad. Moments later I was surrounded by three Ingress players and had to accept those portals are to be theirs that night.

We talked for about half an hour, exchanging stories about the city and Ingress community in it, all in completely friendly atmosphere. I haven't met them IRL again since then, but they take my portals over every now and then :).

Nice story!

It's very addictive when you're within striking distance of next level.

It was only a few times and it was back when I was to low level to take down claimed portals.

I'd plan a route to open portals in surrounding towns on the intel map (after farming as many resonators as I could).

Of course I'd be farming while playing the route so I'd always have more resos than I'd planned and the next town "wasn't that far" and "I've already come all this way", etc. etc.

Forgetting that the drive home was now hella far.

Wow, that's a strong reaction. I had no idea the sides in Ingress had led to this. Perhaps Google will use it to illustrate the silliness in the "sides" available in politics.

It's ironic that the sides are basically the proverbial Greens and Blues.



Maybe next you will explain a way where individuals on their own can have more power than groups of other individuals acting in concert.

I think, for me, the game falls into the same category as EvE. Fun to read about, but I don't think I could ever commit that much time to it, but it does sound like it's great fun.

My thoughts exactly. Eve, Ingress, Dwarf Fortress, Diplomacy. All games I'd prefer to experience through surreal long-form journalism and retelling rather than through actual play.

Eve costs too much. Dwarf Fortress requires too much cognitive power up-front, to start having fun playing it. Diplomacy... I'd love to play it, but it's hard to find someone in the area.

So there it is. Ingress. Free. Easy to start. Too easy to incorporate in your daily life. You start doing groceries in the other shop; it's few minutes more of walking, but you pass by five portals on the route. You stop reading Facebook on the tram, you hack portals instead - you'll need all that inventory later. You go out to buy a beer. It'll be only five minutes, you think. Ok, ten, because you need to retake that two portals on your way. You come home an hour later, after flipping the entire neighbourhood.

All those games you mentioned are addictive like hell. Out of them, Ingress has the lowest barrier to entry. It's so small that you can tunnel through it by accident. At some point you just start playing and can't stop. There, you're sucked in for life.

I disagree about DF. I just grabbed a tutorial and started playing. The real curve starts later in the game when the crappy UI is no longer enough to drive 80+ dwarves.

I think I'll take another shot at it. First time around, I got lost in the complexity and gave up after a day spent on exploring available actions and values to track.

Yeah, I can imagine how playing DF by exploring the actions might suck. There are lots of them and most don't make sense, especially in the beginning of the game.

The value of the tutorials is that they show the smallest working set of actions and how they interact.

It's me always trying to learn everything with minimum amount of tutorials required. Orbiter and KSP have beaten me in the same way - I had to read up a bit before being able have any kind of a meaningful gameplay.

For what its worth I can relate to that. Recently my wife said "I'm going to go out and buy us some cake".

Two hours later she returned, happily bearing cake, and said "Yeah I got distracted hacking portals". She'd walked something like six miles.

She's certainly keen, and enjoys it, though I've never really seen the point of it myself.

You and parent should both try playing Diplomacy by email! Great fun, and can take as little as half an hour a week or so.

Thankfully, doesn't work for me. It's just grinding.

If you think Dwarf Fortress is cool, check out Rimworld[1]. It's still in alpha, but it's already a playable game. It's basically a sci-fi Dwarf Fortress (and it has a way better UI).

[1] http://rimworldgame.com/

Sci-fi is for plus, UI is for plus, but I wonder will it have even remotely the amount of complexity (and thus possibilities) of DF?

I think it's definitely on the right path. You can see the developers daily changelog[1] and there's also a great modding community already started[2].

[1] https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_rCdGYp3nbSUXFG4Ky96RZW1...

[2] http://ludeon.com/forums/index.php?board=15.0

I think that Diplomacy is, for many of us, that game we intend to play some day, but probably won't. It takes exactly 7 people, runs a long time, and has a reputation for ruining friendships (even though, IMO, meta-gaming considered harmful). But it has a lot of depth and I'd love to get the right opportunity (and have the time).

I played Diplomacy once, with a group of strangers. I wasn't a fan, and feel no urge to play again:

1. I really hate the map. 90% of the map is devoted to ocean and Russia, and the interesting bits are crammed into the remaining 10%. It's incredibly easy to misread the map and fuck up a move. Perhaps this is intentional, but it drives me nuts.

2. I didn't know any of the people, so I couldn't judge how honest or deceitful they were being. Maybe this would be better with friends whose tells I know better.

3. Sweet god, you're right, it takes forever - and yet you're feeling rushed the entire time, since you have to make sure you talk to at least the people you're nominally allied with for the next N turns, as well as hearing out potential new allies, and trying to make new ones of your own.

I guess I'm just too casual of a gamer for something like this, but if you think you're interested in playing Diplomacy, I very highly recommend that you try to find someone in your area to play with - there are probably six other people just like you wishing they had someone else to play with.

You can play with 6 people without much difference than 7. You can set your turns to be short. I played one Friday evening with 30 minute turns, and a four-year game-span. It was quite pleasant. No, we didn't get to the end of the game (we picked a winner on who controlled the most places, I lost by 1 on the final resolved move), but really, when I've played longer games, at some point it becomes apparently who will win but it takes a couple tedious years to bring the game to completion.

As for friendships, I think one has to state clearly at the beginning of the game that one has a strong chance to turn against their allies at some point. It's a feature of the game. There are ways to manage this risk for one's sanity. :)

Not about the game, but this was an incredible read about meeting new people. For me, it's the spice of life, and it's why I'm now a part-time Lyft driver. Instead of being bored, I get to meet someone new, go for a ride, and have a real conversation about things that aren't MongoDB and Go.

This narrative serves as direct refutation to the argument that our ever-expanding technology is making us exponentially increasingly disconnected and isolated. Leave it to Ingress to bring about random meet-ups, bringing together women with canes and religious men with yarmulkes, encouraging clothing-wearers to engage with nudists, and pre-teen craigslist entrepreneurs with failed slackrope walkers.

Is it a game I would want to engage in? Not really. I criticize several people I know that became addicted to the Kardashian app… Create a fake persona, and "do stuff" to gain popularity and virtual-Twitter followers? If you could only see how far my eyes roll back in my head, as I describe this. On the contrary, while capturing portals may not be how I want to spend my early morning hours (most notable because I prefer to sleep between 12 am and 4 am to get to the gym around 530-6 am), at least there is evidence that Ingress is connecting people in the flesh, around real, tangible, visible objects and locations. At least in its virtual combat, the terrain is real. Rather than an escape from reality to a contrived, imaginary realm, Ingress facilitates a renewed connection amongst its players, most notably between people that might not otherwise have been connected.

Don't these people need to wake up in the morning for work/school/whatever?

As someone who needs 8 hours of sleep per night or I'm a walking zombie, I'm amazed at people that regularly get by on 4-6 hours per night. These people have 14-21 more hours awake than I do per week.

I suspect a lot of the people who play games like this fall into the needing less sleep category. I'm definitely not one to criticize it - I'm after all asleep during that time.

I'm just a little envious.

I tend to go to bed between 22:00 and 22:30. I get up at around 6:30. Unfortunately this doesn't feel like it's getting me enough sleep; I'm still very drowsy in the morning and don't feel as refreshed as I could. I also need a nap in the afternoon. And on Sundays, I could sleep all day long if nothing or nobody woke me up... sleep deprivation?

And yeah, I will totally feel like a zombie if I go to bed any later than I usually do.

Some do. For me, it screwed up my sleep patterns, so I don't stroll around at 04:00 AM during the week anymore. But a lot of players are students; they often can afford to sleep 'till noon.

People also often organize at more humane hours, like early evening during the week or around noon during weekend. The thing about 4-am actions is that they're based on the expectation that the other team will be asleep. There's a big imbalance of power favouring offense over defense, so if your team is setting up a farm (quickly turning all portals in a portal-dense area into maximum level and installing protection mods), it can take one or two opposing players to undo the work of ten from your team.

Is this a game purely for entertainment or a vehicle for gathering mobile data?

It gathers tons of data. "Players in less well-covered areas can also suggest that landmarks of interest to them should become new game portals by snapping a geotagged photo with their smartphone." http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628936.200-why-googl... "Through this process, Google is collecting vast amounts of pedestrian data, average walking speed, routes taken, pictures, and even Wi-Fi hotspots available." http://www.applieddatalabs.com/content/hidden-side-ingress Look at Niantic's previous game, Field Trip: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nianticpro...

Google officially denies it, but I neither play it nor have read the ToS, so it wouldn't be surprising if they were using your location data for something else. If they were, it's certainly a clever and unique way of doing it.


Google makes no bones about continually recording your location history, and they certainly don't need Ingress for that. They use the location history for predicatively estimating your trips, etc.

not to be that guy, but just because it doesn't show your locations on a web page does not mean Google's not keeping track of it, right?

Google might add you to some anonymized dataset, but I doubt they would track you like that if you didn't opt-in. (Facebook, I wouldn't even trust that far.) But you have to opt-in to this to access certain Google services, so people might not realize how much location data Google is using. You can't just turn it on for certain apps, it's all or nothing.

I've observed a work colleague play this game. It looks incredibly boring, and its not much fun to hang out with someone who is glued to their phone the whole time, changing routes just so they can get more portals.

Whatever makes people happy I suppose.

It looks incredibly boring from the outside, because you're not part of the game. The feeling changes the moment you start to play.

The funny thing is, this game makes hanging out with non-players a bit annoying, because you're constantly forced to keep your phone in your pocket by people who don't understand that you can have a productive conversation while hacking a portal at the same time.

Not everyone can multi-task that well. I know at least 2 people, girlfriend included, that can't do anything when on their phone. They'll literally stop in their tracks when walking on the sidewalk or completely drop out of a conversation when reading / writing a text message. Let alone playing a game. I also think its a bit rude to play a game when in the company of someone else trying to have a conversation.

My wife can't multitask - she'll call me when she's walking to relay a two-sentence message because she can't type and walk.

I agree that it's rude to play a game when having a conversation with someone, but it's not rude at all for two people to be walking along and playing the same game.

Ingress reminds me of the pokemkon game that Google made up for April fools day. I was very disappointed that that game wasn't real.

TRWTF moment for me while reading this article was that my wife's uncle actually broke his ankle while playing Ingress :)

Isn't Ingress just Shadow Cities without beacons and jumps?

There was actually a bit of a social vision behind G+ Hangouts. The idea was that people would start "hanging out" in each other's web spaces, like dorm rooms.

I was skeptical of this but (as a Googler, and at the time, a drinker of the Kool-Aid) I wanted to see it work. Hence, my suggestion that (a) we re-orient G+ Games around high-quality games (such as German-style board games, 2D adventures and collaborative RPGs, etc.) instead of giving preferential treatment to Zyngarbage, and (b) integrate high-quality games (which we didn't have, but third-party developers will build them if you create the platform) with Hangouts. I knew people wouldn't "Hangout" just to watch Youtube videos (really, who wants to hear others' reactions to YT videos? the comments are horrific enough without having to hear associated voices) but I figured that a high-quality game experience around truly social games (not anti-social Zyngarbage that merely marketed itself through social networks, like Farmville back when Zynga was more obviously Facebook's Tapeworm) gave Hangouts a chance of looking more like that original vision. A high-quality and social German-style board game experience is one thing that would get a critical core of tech-savvy people using Hangouts for multiple hours per day.

Then... I was erroneously tagged as a union activist and my psychotic manager at the time had a field day with the "make 'im quit" game, but no need to say more on that. The Internet has had more than two lunches on that one.

It's interesting to see Google making this ambitious of a venture into games and the concept of a game. Augmented reality is an interesting field and it's admirable that they're trying this space out. Say what you will about Google (I've said plenty) but their ambition and commitment to R&D is a very good thing.

The stuff that you suggest sounds amazing, and like it would actually make me want to use G+/Hangouts.

Sadly, the percentage of the population who would be into that is probably single digit, and large companies rarely care about single digit niches :(

Sadly, the percentage of the population who would be into that is probably single digit, and large companies rarely care about single digit niches :(

I would argue that those single-digit percent niches can matter quite a bit. People follow the upscale. Facebook started at Harvard, branched out to the Ivies, then the top 100 colleges, and so on. At every step, it was associated with a higher level of prestige than what it was expanding into.

If you start with cognitively upscale games, you get a core of highly intelligent people who love your product and will evangelize it. Through that, and by just having a great product, you move the rest.

Games is a really hard space for Google to get because it emerged as the anti-Yahoo. Yahoos and AOLs and Facebooks want their users inside the walled garden spending as much time as they can. Google established itself by being the "we won't waste your time" search engine; its job is to get you where you want to go, as fast as it can. So Games were really a new thing for Google and G+ Games wasn't a fit for its traditional ideology, and that may explain why it made such bad decisions (and ultimately failed) in that space.

> who wants to hear others' reactions to YT videos

You'd be surprised. There are a LOT of "look at my reaction to some video" videos on YouTube.

Whatever, kid. I’m a lady.

I did not realize until this point in the story that the author was female!

The part where she talks about thinking she is being stalked and specially when she is describing the google+ community "I noticed that they were definitely all men" were highly suggestive (to me) that the author was a woman.

Who has the time to read this much nonsense?

Even more so -- who has time to program apps like these?

That's the weird part.

People who get paid for it?

Can somebody please post a TL;DR. I wish the author had.

I can't speak for others here, but part of the reason why I frequent HN in the first place is that the articles are worth reading, and are necessary to read in order to have a meaningful discussion in the comments. Telling you what the author was writing about is easy. Conveying the tone and details is less so, and you'd be better off to read it yourself as the desire for comprehensive comprehension increases. Realizing this, when I see an HN thread, I evaluate its interestingness and decide if I'm going to read it, or if the title gives away the content, just the comments. HN is a community of diverse interests serving interesting content to those interests, and I choose which ones I pursue.

I propose that getting a TL;DR will be worse than simply forgetting this article exists. A press release announcing Half Life 3 can be TL;DRed without any lack of information, but this article is more introspective and most of its value would be lost in truncation. I am beginning to believe that the high incidence of such entries is one of the primary factors separating HN from e.g. reddit et al.

The other aspect of my desire to read HN stems from its comments. Whether by communal composition or moderation, I find the comments here to be of significantly higher quality than I typically find elsewhere. This is one of precious few well-used forums in which people who fundamentally disagree can have a meaningful conversation. This happens with the bar of entry being the understanding of the article or link in question. Where goes the quality of diving into an article, so goes the discussion engendered thereby. The TL;DR attitude is why most popular subreddits are unreadable anymore.

I would like to apologize for the lengthy comment, and please don't take this as a slight to you or your curiosity. I've tried to point out why it may benefit you to take the time to dive into deep content. I hope you'll consider it in the future. It's significantly more rewarding than skimming links the way I used to.

Also, I wanted to make this comment long partly out of spite. If you'll read this, but not the article, there's some serious cognitive dissonance at play in your mind.

TL;DR actually read it.

> I wanted to make this comment long partly out of spite

But it's clear that most of it is due to ego.

I was bored, went tightrope-walking with friends, sprained my ankle.

Then I got into Ingress, a GPS-enabled game. I had lots of adventures and made new friends. My old friends tolerated me.

As my ankle healed I bought a scooter and used it to play Ingress.

A surprising amount of Ingress is photographing uninspired corporate art.

I started to believe life is about boredom and I was glad I was filling the boredom more creatively, although it's not really that creative I think sometimes.

Thank you. Excellent.

Three sections in and the article still has no substance or point, other than to bore the reader. The author needs to edit this and get to the point. Terrible writing.

The structure of this short story / personal essay is a series of chained vignettes. They are linked together only loosely or suggestively. That is probably deliberate. The story is about searching for an antidote to boredom, and finding that antidote in a surreal, arbitrary game where you get to meet unusual people. Therefore the structure of the short story, while initially a little opaque, actually helps you get more simpatico with her state of mind as she was going on this personal journey. I suppose it's not for everyone, but I think the structure is actually quite clever.

Don't Google engineers, with, as we are so often reminded, all that grey matter shooting out of their ears (at such high velocity), have better things to do with their time, and their staggering intellectual prowess?

Like you know, fixing global warming? Analyzing Ebola mutations? That sort of thing.

Right, because engineers trained on mobile systems and mapping technology should just start "analyzing Ebola mutations". Might as well as why strong construction workers aren't helping "build infrastructure in the third world" instead of building condos for the rich.

Ingress is almost definitely an information-collection system to improve mapping technology and determine human walking paths/flow, similar to information we have on traffic on roads. (As well as whatever other benefits Google can mine out of this info.)

Right, because engineers trained on mobile systems and mapping technology should just start "analyzing Ebola mutations".

The point is that it wouldn't hurt if they would start taking an interest in matters of actual social and economic import.

Rather than just (apparently) bro'ing out at 4am and "collecting a lot of XP." And waking up the whole damn neighborhood.

I can tell you what is even less important than this game. Most of the web development. I mean, do we really need a millionth copy of the same basic CRUD webpage or bullshit webapp just because a small company wants to outcompete another small company on ad revenue?

> Rather than just (apparently) bro'ing out at 4am and "collecting a lot of XP."

This "bro'ing out at 4 am" will have more "actual social impact" as a side effect of collected data and community created than most of the things programmers write for money.

Maybe go pick on web developers. Or sports events organizers. Or tourism industry. It's all bullshit compared to Ebola.

There's just something extra weird about the exuberant level of interest, shown by members of a certain set who (according to their carefully crafted image) are just way incredibly smarter than the rest of us, in projects so utterly trivial.

Maybe someone should come up with an honestly named version of this, "lab rat in maze."

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