Ingress is probably the best implementation of an augmented-reality game to date, giving a positive connotation to portals second only to the game of Portal. It involves you, and a phone, going around the real world trying to collect "exotic matter." You fight the opposing faction, either Resistance or Enlightened, for control, though "fighting" involves getting to an area and poking your phone. It's like the most exciting version of Google maps ever! However, this Google beta does have quite a few downsides, as my weeks of playing on my own have revealed:
1. No, I Don't Have an Invite
One of the genius moves that Google has pulled off with Ingress is to make it exclusive, thus making it more special than it would normally be, and thus way more desired. That's one of the problems if you are lucky enough to have gotten an invite to this game; others also want in. Badly. People have engaged in all manner of craziness to get the Ingress invite, from begging, to making rap songs about it, to...well, here's a whole Google Plus community full of artwork. So, if you do have an invite, it may be like having the One Ring in a city full of Gollums, with the same attendant sympathy/fear factor Frodo had towards him.
2. The First Rule of Ingress Is that You Do Not Talk about Ingress.
One thing about Ingress is that you do not talk about Ingress - or you do. The story background, that you are part of a secret organization determined to save or control the world, does lend itself to a little paranoia. Not the serious kind of "lock this person up" type of paranoia, but the kind of paranoia you might have about a secret obsession that your friends would not approve of, like watching Russian dashcam videos. Also, you're always wondering if maybe that person standing on the street corner is merely texting their loved one or blasting your resonators all to hell. I mean, there you are, both with your secret shame - how do you say hello? Do you say hello? Do you just smash their phone to protect your resonators? So many choices.
3. Those Damn Codes
Google has special codes for the game, hidden. These codes, when entered, give you additional goodies, like mp3 files with story content, more resonators or the gift of eternal life. I don't really know; I've never gotten one to work. The thing is, as soon as you locate a code, it has a limited number of redemptions before it becomes inactive, and it's almost always inactive because those redemptions have been used. I'm sure some people have redeemed codes, just like I'm sure someone has gotten a TV as a Black Friday "doorbuster" for $50, but I've not been one of those people, and if you still have all your bones and sanity intact, chances are you may not be either.