I initially set out to write a review of this GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) powered mobile game by Google and include an exploration of the reasons why such a resource-heavy service would be offered for free, from the benign reasons to the dark conspiratorial reasons for it. I realised this was a stupid idea and split it in two…. then I decided to let Kobevader do the review, so I scrapped mine. If you haven’t heard of the game before you can get a pretty good summary of it on it’s Wikipedia article.
In order to grasp why this question needs to be asked and the gravity of it, I must impress upon you how goddamn expensive this system is to maintain. Building the infrastructure for it was no problem as it all exists already – we’ve got our Androids, the GPS Satellites, and Google’s massive network of servers. Technologically it’s all there, and strangely enough I had imagined a social app that used the same technology to allow people to “leave” or “do” things in physical locations. Anyone who can code an Android app can do this (with a team), with only one issue: the server load.
I couldn’t find statistic on the number of portals, but there are 24,576 “Cells” (regional competition theaters), so let’s ballpark the number at being 200 portals per Cell equaling almost 5 million portals. At least 5,000,000 people have installed Ingress on their phones, 152,556 of whom have “Suggested” it on the app store. A network of servers across the globe must maintain, serve, and update several variables for each portal and even more variables for each player. The server also has to record naturally-changing variables outside of players actions, like the decay-rate of resonator health (5 million times 8), the number of days a player has maintained their longest-maintained portal, the collation and aggregation of Mind Units (MU) every 5 and 175 hours per Cell, per faction, and globally. The servers also have to communicate with each player as they navigate, collecting their GPS data second-per-second to define whether or not a player is in the right place to conduct an action, and then there’s the collection of tiny particles of XM (energy used to conduct actions and that is lost when attacked by a portal) littered around the globe. The amount of data coming and going is quite literally mind-bogglingly insane. The bandwidth used by World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike, and Facebook combined couldn’t possibly come close to the data transferred for the sake of this game.
Not all the Ingress participants are oblivious to the fact that great expensive is lent to this free game which contains no advertising or other possible revenue source, so theories abound as to why it exists at all. However, I haven’t met a(nother) conspiracy theorist who plays it yet, so darker explanations for the game’s existence go unmentioned. I’ll explain these darker theories below – but as I’m certain these people never do anything for one single reason alone, I will include the very credible alternate explanations.
Google is Building their “Field Trip” App
Before Ingress there was Field Trip. An app that utilized the same technology to bring people around their immediate area, showing them places of interest that they normally wouldn’t see or would otherwise be hard to find. This app always needs updating as the number of places of interest in the world surely numbers in the multiple millions. As Ingress is a game based on controlling points defined by places of interest, this provides Google with a great resource as players will take geo-tagged photos of things in their locality and suggest they become sites for portals. This isn’t really a theory as it would be quite stupid to not use this data in their other apps.
Google has plenty of cash to spare. To them it would be no problem to give a service that’s free and is ad-free if they could later turn a profit on it. In this day and age businesses are better off offering their services for free until they’ve roped in enough punters and built up brand loyalty, like heroin dealers in disadvantaged communities when the steel mill shuts down and lays off most of the residents.
The process has already begun as all Vodafon outlets in Germany have become portals and the company has arranged Ingress-friendly data plans.
Some theorize that soon we’ll be seeing notifications pop up for players are they come into proximity to a Starbucks or what-have-you.
37% of polled players say they would continue playing if they had to pay a subscription fee. I forget my source for this, so let’s call it an anecdote.
To Promote Google’s Shitty Social Network
For years now Google has been trying to force G+ down our throats. They’ve been slowly massaging the YouTube clientele into the social network causing a significant number of channel owners to ditch the service. Other, painful, attempts have been made to get us to use G+ – the most intrusive being the little bell at the top-right of every page of every Google service notifying you of shit you likely don’t care about. G+ will even dig into your Android devices without asking and upload photos you took to Google Drive, and then ask you if you’d like to share them via the network. So you best check that little bell whenever it summons your attention. As a people we’ve roundly and steadfastly resisted the G+ encroachment as we either have a social network we prefer or hate social networking altogether.
Then came Ingress. Probably the one thing that will save Google’s pet social network from absolutely everyone getting sick of it being thrown at us. The game depends upon you having a Gmail/Google account (like all their services) and gives you the option to link your G+ account to it in-app so people can communicate with you “securely”. Many people around the world fear the opposing faction signing up in order to spy on them in their faction-only in-app chat feed and you can’t link people to URLs in the chat. So the easiest option is to connect via their social network and create a Hangout for your cell’s faction.
It got me using G+, anyway. And I have to say that they’ve done a very good job with it’s functionality, integration with other services, and appearance…. and I hate Google and all other social networks… so you can imagine how “the muggles” feel about it.
Neutralize Disgruntled Populations
I’m working on the premise that within most individuals (mainly men) there is a natural inclination to become active and go into war-mode when things aren’t going so great personally and on the societal level. Unless an individual has intentionally or unconsciously decided that the only thing that matters is his or her own happiness quota they will feel the urge to fight someone on some level. This is why violent sports and gang culture are the most popular amoung the disadvantaged.
Ingress is a game that allows you to go to war to a more vivid extent than single-player computer games and every other online gaming experience. It brings you outside, gets you moving, maybe even gets your heart pumping. You are charged with the mission of taking control of and maintaining places that your fellow citizens consider important or sacred, and in some instances, places your ancestors have fought to control physically.
If you look close enough you’ll find that the greatest (and sometimes only) proponents of team sports has been religion and government. When the men want to fight and feel accomplishment from having gained a victory over others the need to do anything more radical about their situation is satiated – and when the feeling of loss at having been beaten by the other team is visited upon men they, on a deep level, associate their oppression with the opposing team and resolve to do better next time.
Team sports are a fantastic tool for defusing violence and the need to overthrow the status quo.
Talent Scouting and Threat Assessment
Let’s face the fact the presentation and ambiance of this game is very cyberpunk-James Bond. It was distinctly designed to make you feel like you’re a part of the intelligence community. You start the app and it shows you a globe (in-game) geopolitically dotted with blue and green and announces it’s finding your location. You’re asked to provide an “agent name”, as all players are known as agents. The computer voice sounds like EVA from Tiberian Sun (the computer system used by GDI (NATO/United Nations) for intelligence and war strategy), which announces that it’s “downloading latest intel package”. When you want to view a map of the world and your location, you go to the “Ingress Intel Map”.
It’s very likely that this is a giant vetting system as the game challenges all willing agents in leadership skills, planning, maneuvering, psychology of the enemy, keeping secrets and spreading disinfo, being able to tell who’s a double agent, and god knows what else. This isn’t a far-fetched idea as the U.S. Military has had great successes with this very model of recruitment. In 2002 they released “America’s Army: Recon”, a videogame designed to educate and facilitate recruitment. The game put players to the test in various ways and was used to help allocate recruits within their ranks.
Throughout the world in every major city and in most small cities are real agents of varying colours, occupations, and allegiances, conducting shadow warfare against each other and the natives in order to establish or maintain geopolitical control – sound similar to our game? – Depending upon where they live, these people are sleepers with nothing to do except “sleep” and watch for potential threats to the harmony of the political landscape. Wouldn’t it benefit them to spend a little of their time on Ingress to watch truly talented people maneuver about the city and country to play at what they do for a living? Wouldn’t that be an excellent resource for potential recruits? I know if I didn’t make this game to recruit, I would certainly use it to recruit at the very least.
Your Ingress account is inseparable from your Google Account, and even if you created a separate account for Ingress and other activities, they know damn well it belongs to you also, and a profile of you is built. This isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s how Google operates in order to deliver a personalized service experience (and to spy on you). Your internet activities largely (or entirely) pass through their hands and gets fed into their complex algorithms. They know what you like, they know what your opinions are, they know what you think about, and you can’t escape that. This could all be easily referenced to by someone with the appropriate access rights to Google’s servers. So if one of our shadowy friends notice that you’re a pretty effective leader or just proficient at what they do, they will determine by that information whether you fall under the definition of friend or foe.
For further interesting reading, check out America’s “Disposition Matrix” which automatically identifies people who are a threat to their “National Security” and has them disposed of. This technology doesn’t need any elaboration to become a system that identifies normal political dissidents or unwanted individuals as the great power centers of the world become more protective of their hegemony and citizens become more disgruntled with their oppression. When the definition of the “Nation” is what those in power want over what the people want, then any individual who disrupts that status quo by practicing particular rights or informing the greater populace will surely be identified by this system to be watched, harassed, framed, or murdered.
The Internet of Things: A Proof of Concept
Ever wonder what the Smart- prefix is – like Smartbomb? Ever wonder why car engines are becoming computers? This is where we get into real conspiracy theory.
First we get some pretty obvious facts out of the way: Google = CIA/NSA/whoever. Their level of co-operation and integration leaves very little difference between them. They are the same entity, just different divisions operating on different rules. Even searching Google itself for “Google CIA” will bring you to some interesting information. Even for you folks who need something to be documented on Wikipedia before it’s credible, you can find a few gems on In-Q-Tel’s entry. There you have it – hidden in plain sight.The ultimate agenda of our shadowy rulers is to document and track everything in a giant informational web that can be organized and calculated to inform the various institutions of our governments of vital information. This is to be achieved by an ideal that is well underway, known as “The Internet of Things” – a web of smartphones, smartfridges, smarttelevisions, smarttoilets, smartflower pots, smartnail clippers, smartMETERS, smart-everything. To accommodate this bold initiative which will see 30 billion devices connected to the Internet at any given time (5 things per person) by 2025, we’ve upgraded our IP (Internet Protocol) Address system which identifies each individual thing/device which connects to the Internet. As of May (2014) we’ve been using both IPv4 (a 32bit system with 4,300,000,000 possible addresses) and IPv6 (a 128bit system with 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible addresses) with IPv4 being phased out. Something tells me they have bigger plans than having 30,000,000,000 devices connected to their Internet of Things. Back to our game….
The mystery of why so much money would be freely spent to provide people with a free video game if you actually are the Internet itself and your sister-institutions were the ones who built the backbones that supply the local Internet Service Providers with access to this Information Superhighway is solved if there is a major array of purposes to be filled and a concept needs to be proven. With those resources in-hand the only people who need to worry about bandwidth load are ISPs and their customers. If you were “The Powers That Be”, all you need to worry about is whether the hardware of your network is up to the task and designing a system that can collate and display all of that information together in a variety of ways. If your end-goal is to have a live and dynamic map of the world showing the location and variable information of 30,000,000,000+ objects, you first need to try it out on a smaller scale: Ingress.
The Symbolism of Ingress
The ingress icon contains variations of the same symbol and in that way it is very unique, and was the first thing about the game that struck me. In the image that I’ll repeat on the left you will see a series of Saturnian symbols which are amazingly put together with simplistic beauty.
The one thing being symbolized here is the planet Saturn which is the archetype of structure. It rules time, restriction, authority, gravity, and death. The symbols used here are the hexagon, hypercube (3D cube), pyramid, and Star of David. Take a second for those shapes to emerge from the overall picture.
The most outer shape is the hexagon (shape with 6 sides). The hypercube within also doubles as another hexagon. That houses a hypercube, which has become a 3D representation of the hexagon. In the middle you’ll see a pyramid which in a 2-dimensional sense looks like an upward triangle and in a 3-dimensional sense t looks like seeing a pyramid from an exact-center bird’s eye view. The triangle pointing upwards coupled with the two downward angled lines making up the hypercube is the Star of David, with the edges of the hypercube serving as a downward triangle.
I’m not going to get into the significance of this or even pretend that I comprehend the significance, which I’m sure there is on various levels. I quite frankly do not know why any corporation or organisation would so deliberately use Saturnian symbolism beyond instilling in the viewer a sense of power, security, and structure.