I've gotten back into playing Ingress. I've talked about Ingress before (and about how bad a game it is) both here and on Arisia panels, but in case you missed that, some basics: Ingress is an augmented reality game from Niantic, a Google operation. The game posits a conflict over the emergence of a new type of exotic matter (XM) which becomes the energy supply for everything you do in-game. Players (agents) connect locations (called portals) to make triangles and score based on how big the triangles are. Game portals are on any sort of public art or historical object - statues, markers, memorials, etc.
If you want to play I can send you an invite if I have your email address. It's free - there are no in-game purchases and the app itself is free. We can talk more about the game offline but let me highlight the important bits for this past week/weekend.
The game is very limited. It doesn't have an "end game" in the traditional sense. As a result the players have created their own ecosystem of self-directed goals, often called operations (ops). An op brings together multiple people to achieve a single goal, usually the creation of a large triangle (field). To do that, you need to capture the endpoints and clear blocking lines both from your team and the other team.
There are achievements called "badges" that mark doing game actions a certain amount of times or for a certain length of time. These badges are gateways to higher levels, which is mostly bragging rights. For this weekend, we were organizing an op to get one of our team members a platinum-level badge, the last one she needed for level. When I say "we" were organizing, I mostly mean "I was." The op was my plan and I gathered most of the people who were going to participate. The amount of cat-herding involved was epic.
Pygment has finally started playing this game, after watching me play it off and on for a couple years. I have, as we've been saying, created a monster. She's not one to do things by half measures and has gotten through the early levels quickly. For this weekend's op, she and I were one team, there was another husband-wife team, a solo player, and three people who managed things from a Web-based console, giving directions to people in the field. Directions are of the form "Capture this portal" or "destroy that blocking link".
The op involved connecting Gloucester to Nahant to Merrimack College and back to Gloucester. That's a fair bit of mileage but it's far from the biggest field that people have organized. See for example Operation Eureka, which covered all of Europe, much of Africa, and more. Still, these links were going to pass through pretty active areas. So our goal was to get the field up between midnight and 1AM Sunday. Because reasons.
Saturday afternoon we went to a friend's annual summer BBQ. That was nice, particularly since the kids were at camp. We took the dog who behaved remarkably well with the strangers and the noise. We headed home around dusk and started preparing for our night-time adventures.
It turns out that Lynn Woods is one of those things that's between Nahant and where we wanted the links to go. We had people pre-scout the three end points but as it got dark Saturday I started to worry about how accessible the Woods would be. So we set off a bit early to be able to reach those points within time.
Sure enough it turned out the park was reachable, but the Great Woods "road" was a golf-cart-wide gravel path through trees. And by the way, it's uphill. Rather a lot. So off we hiked, in the dark with our flashlight, climbing a hill. Along the way we joked about various excuses we could come up with if we were questioned. After about 15 minutes' walk we came out of the trees at the top of the hill and Pygment said "look up." The sky was hazy from the humidity but even so we were on a hilltop far away from the lights of civilization on a summer night. There aren't good adjectives for it - it was exhilarating and beautiful and we were very glad when we got down off the hill and safely out of the park without being asked any questions.
With that done we drove into Lynn with some time to kill. We came upon a Chinese restaurant that was open late and where we could get a cold drink and a bite to eat. Then we headed down to Nahant. Our target was on the SW tip of the island, and we had been prepped that it was a 15-minute walk from the parking lot. The directions were "Walk to the end of the path, then keep going. Watch out for the wildlife."
So we did. There were the animals. There was the end of the path and here's where we seem to be able to keep going, which led to being on the "beach" at midnight. And by "beach" I mean the point where I'm walking out on rocks and Pygment says, "You're right on the edge" as I was about to step onto the air and fall into the ocean. No, I did not fall in.
And then we found ourselves staring across what the map tells me is called "Broad Sound" at the lights of the city (and airplanes landing at Logan) and feeling the ocean breezes.
Yes, we did do the game things the op required. The other side tried to block us but we got the field thrown and our friend got her badge and there was a round of virtual back-slapping and congratulations. We eventually meandered our way home, powered by adrenaline and joy and a little caffeine. I got to bed around 2AM which isn't all that late in the grand scheme of things but it's later than I've been awake voluntarily in many months. It felt... liberating.
Sunday we did as little as possible in the morning. Pygment got a massage. I hid in the AC. I tried napping a couple times but you know how when you're overtired you can't sleep? Yeah, that. With bonus weird dreams. Eventually we went out, did some driving around, and it turned out we had a chance to meet up with a couple of game friends on the town common, where...
I got to see - and call 911 about - a road rage incident. From where I was walking, I could hear someone yelling, but it was far enough away that I couldn't tell what he was shouting. I looked over to see a man hanging out of a maroon pick-up truck while stopped at a light. As the light changed, the car in front of him began to move and to my surprise he gunned the engine, rammed into the back corner of the vehicle in front of him, and then sped off.
I had my phone in hand and dialed 911. I didn't get the license plate of the pick-up but I did see the other car pull into a nerby driveway while I was giving my report so I ran over. The young woman driving the car that got rammed was uninjured, but pretty clearly disoriented. I mean, who does that sort of thing, right? I think she was glad someone saw it and called 911 for her as she didn't seem too sure of what to do. Eventually the cop arrived and we gave our info. I gave her mine as well in case her insurance company needs the witness statement as well. Then my game-friends gave me a lift home.
If you're observant, you'll have noticed that Pygment disappeared from this story. That's because as I was dealing with the road rage call, she was on the phone with the camp where we sent Thing 2 after he got kicked out of the other camp. If you're wondering details, ask me in person. For now it's enough to say that she needed to drive off right then and pick him up.
So he's home for 36 hours, we've postponed our intended adult-dinner-out reservation, and we're hopeful that the 10-12 hours' sleep he got (he crashed hard when he got home) will be enough to restore some equilibrium.
So, yeah, nothing momentous happened this weekend but I got to be places I wouldn't have been, and do things I didn't expect to be doing. I got to have little adventures. I felt like I did good deeds for friends and for a stranger, and I got to spend a lot of hours with the wifey. My life, it does not suck.