Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A world first? Human virus downgrades computer game

We know about computer viruses messing up computer games but now we have a human virus, which is far more serious, also being able to impact on games. I think this is a sign of the times and an indicator of just how culture is being interwoven with technology.

The game in question once belonged to Google but spun out last year, raising funds on the way. That’s almost unheard of, right? Google just shuts down companies it owns but doesn’t want any more. They didn’t even sell the Google Affiliate Network (once part of DoubleClick). They just closed it.

Niantic Lab’s Ingress is different. It left Google and then got funded by Google and other backers like the Pokemon Company.

Ingress is also a different sort of computer game than you might be expecting. It’s a smartphone game that requires you to get off the sofa and roam around your city to play. I’d call it an augmented reality game since it’s a virtual overlay, using your location data, on the real world.

In Ingress there are two factions fighting for the future of mankind. There’s the Enlightened (in green) who want to harness a mysterious alien energy and help humanity grow. There’s the Resistance (in blue) who recruit agents by claiming the mysterious alien energy (and the unseen aliens) are dangerous and should be opposed but who have now been exposed, in the game’s three year plot, as actually working for a second alien faction all along. Traitors. Yeah, it’s a twisty plot but there’s a summary video at the end of this post.

The rivalry between the two factions is significant because Niantic organise large clashes, twice a year, known as Anomalies. One of the main Anomalies this year was supposed to be in Rio. This is the same Rio that’s supposed to be having the 2016 Summer Olympics.

This week Niantic downgraded the Rio event and moved the main clash of factions to Seattle. This makes sense; Ingress is a game where you have to physically be in the right location to play and an Anomaly in Rio would mean players from around the world (and 14 million people have downloaded the game; millions play every month) would have to travel to Brazil.

In a Google+ update Niantic said;

... due to escalating concerns by the World Health Organization regarding the Zika virus, and the challenges it presents, the #Obsidian Rio event has been reclassified as a Satellite Flash Shard anomaly. The new Primary city for the events occurring on 27 FEB will be Seattle …

In other words; as Ingress blends reality with gameplay an event in Rio would mean exposing computer game players to the Zika virus.

I think this may be a first. In the future I think we’ll see more real world and augmented reality clashes where events in one affect decisions in the other.



If you’re interested in joining Ingress, helping the Enlightened fight for choice and turning your daily commute into a game then scribble your email down here and I’ll get in touch.

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