As much as it pains me to say it, I’ve been addicted to a couple of augmented reality games over the last year and a half, but I’m nearly free of them: Ingress & Pokemon Go (both from Niantic). Ingress is the lesser known, older brother of the two. Both are GPS location-based games which present a virtual layer that turns real world locations into places where you can play the game. There are things happening within the game 24×7 which vie for attention: fear of missing out on steroids.
Both games have arisen from a noble intention: to play the game, you need to leave the house and walk around (ideally).
When I originally read about Ingress I thought “This is gonna be great! I can get some exercise and have some fun too!”. And at first it was like that. Then, as I started to play more, and discovered that other local players were waging “war” with me, I felt the need to drive around at night and on the weekend, to respond and to capture more virtual territory. The more I played, the more the game sucked me in with virtual medals and increasing in-game capabilities. I soon discovered that I could chat to and meet up with other players. There was a whole community. International events. Millions of players globally!
The social aspect was great! I was meeting loads of people that were passionate about the game, and learning about all the personalities of the enemy players, and all the adventures everyone had been on. I started hanging out with others to “farm”, gossip and learn about the game at lunches, at evening drinks after work, and on weekends and “bus runs”. We would strategise and organise “missions”, racing against the clock to create huge “fields” that scored points for our team. The mixture of competitive and social aspects drove me to play the game and chat to other players constantly: before work, while driving, at the train station, on the train, walking to work, at my desk, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, at lunch, after work, when socialising with other players.
It really was incessant, but I couldn’t see how obsessed I had become about it and how much it had taken over my life. I was actually doing a lot of extra walking and some cycling (1,892 km according to the game) but not with any intensity. I can’t say that it’s helped me lose any weight. Walking (and particularly driving) while using your phone was putting myself and others at risk, but the addiction had overcome my common sense.
Over time, my interest in the game has waned. I have reached the key achievements. I have been #1 in my “cell” (now there’s an irony that hadn’t occurred to me before). I have met all the people I am interested in meeting. I have learned all I wanted to learn about the game, and my addiction has thankfully burnt out. There was a spark, a fire, and now ash. Soon the app will be gone from my phone, along with the chat groups. I have made some great new friends, and I will cherish and cultivate those new friendships and see where they go.
P.S. I also played Pokemon Go for a bit but thankfully it was crap compared to Ingress so I gave it up after a month.