Or watch the one about players climbing to the highest mountain in Taiwan to claim a spot.

It's enough to make me, an iPhone owner, a bit jealous!

Ingress builds on a lot of stuff that's come before it. It's a little like Majestic, the experimental alternate reality game from EA that came out at the turn of the century and would embroil real-world players in a fictional adventure through phone calls, faxes and the like. It's also tied to the many location-based games before it that have let players with cell phones turn the real world into mazes and battlefields.


Ingress is also built upon Google Earth itself, a fact that led Hanke to sharing this fun nugget with me about some ideas he had bounced around with Google co-founder Sergey Brin. "I see a map and I think, 'Oh, there should be a game to this.' We had a lot of discussions about that with Google Earth. Sergei's like, 'We should make a game out of this. You should be able to blow things up and drive around.' So it was always there in the background, but then smartphones happened and you had GPS and all these sensors. Why not change the world into a game? That seems innovative. That hasn't really been done in a good way."

Hanke's team released Ingress last December on Android. It's been in beta, though it'll exit that status on December 14. At that point, anyone can join and play, without the need to request an invitation. There's some reason to try to start playing now, since there's still one more #13MAGNUS-related meet-up/event in Phoenix, Arizona and Rome on Saturday, December 7.


Hanke likes the idea, as he puts it, of "people using Ingress as kind of an excuse to go out and do cool stuff."

Hanke is a longtime sci-fi fan and a former game programmer himself. He likes games, but he's been anxious about how sedentary most mobile games are. He's proud that Ingress players, at least, are getting out in the world, discovering game "portals" in historical sites and cultural institutions, and planting nodes in all sorts of exotic spots. "The real opportunity to me seemed to be to reinvent the concept of a game on phones to make it about movement and exploration and require one to do that as part of the game," he said. "And then, yeah, it gets to be a solution to this problem. Instead of games incenting you to sit still, they can incent you to move around and walk." He likes the idea, as he puts it, of "people using Ingress as kind of an excuse to go out and do cool stuff."


Beyond the December 14 wrap-up to the Jarvis saga and Ingress' first year, Niantic will release an iOS version so even more people can play. Hanke is coy about whether Ingress will also come to Google Glass, his parent company's famous augmented reality specs, but it seems inevitable. Niantic's other project, the landmark-spotting Field Trip, was recently released for Glass. Hanke simply points out that Niantic isn't just about making apps that use Google Earth map data but to "anticipate some of the opportunities in wearable computing." Niantic also plans to release APIs (programming standards) that will let other people build their own massively-multiplayer location-based experiences all on top of Google's map data.

"We're trying to do something innovative with gaming," Hanke said. Sounds fun.

To contact the author of this post, write to stephentotilo@kotaku.com or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo.