For the french version of this article, click here.
Remember, almost a year ago, Marine « Reanoo » Wauquier introduced us to Ingress, a smartphone game. Quick reminder : Ingress is a game that was developed by Google and Niantics in November 2012 and whose purpose is to capture portals and link them with one another to create zones in order to make your faction win.
On Saturday October the 24th in Zurich (Switzerland), the purpose was a bit different : we had to move objects, named Shards, from one portal to another by linking them together, in order to attain a goal portal. In the game’s lore, a Shard is a piece of a protagonist’s personality and the goal is to regroup them together in order to reconstitute the character. During the event, the Shards will appear on random portals that the players will need to capture and supply in energy, then link to another one so that the Shard will transit from portal to portal until the final goal. You might think it’s « easy », except when almost a thousand people are scattered in a defined playing area in order to go through the whole mission.
This event, «Abaddon Zurich Flash Shards» is the first in a series of three, the following events will take place respectively in Hamburg on the 14th of November and in Milano on the 12th of December. People came from all over Switzerland, but also from France, Germany and Italy, mostly. It was then necessary to speak English to understand each other. All players were dispatched in teams of 6 to 10 players, and each team was assigned to a defined area ranging from A to H. Some radio teams were also on site to give instructions in real time to the leaders of each squad, such as attack strategies, places to go to or an enemy offensive to counter.
A bit before the starting time (12h20, the time when the 9 first Shards would spawn), every team went as quickly as possible to its area and tried to secure it by capturing surrounding portals.
My Team, TeamDocks, mostly consisted of new players and was thus quite inexperienced. We did our homework well and read the instructions that our beloved Squad Leader carefully translated for us a few days before so we wouldn’t be completely lost during the event. The leading motto was «Always listen to your leader !».
At 12h20, one of us exclaimed «I see a weird thing on my scanner, is this a Shard ? ». The whole team stirred and we decided to run to the spot that we were seeing on the map, even if it wasn’t the portal that was assigned to our team. On site, we noticed a group of people, all resting on a fountain (so we took it that it was our portal) and our TL went up to them to discuss about a strategy. The idea was that a part of the group had to capture, another had to protect and another had to attack in case the portal went over to the enemy. A few of us sticked around the fountain – or even in it – to be right at the center of the portal, while other players scattered all around it, at about 40m of the center for a maximum efficiency.
We were doing fine, but there were only 15 of us when a bunch of enemy players showed up at the speed of light, some of them riding bikes. Then, a team from Ticino (the southernmost italian-speaking canton of Switzerland) was told to secure the linking portal in order to move the Shard. Very well. There was, at the time, 7 people from our team up against no less than 31 enemies.
We stopped defending for a while in order to save up on our in-game equipment while we patiently waited for backup. Our teammate in charge of keeping the beer supply flowing went to fetch some drinks to quench our evergrowing thirst. Our backup was nowhere to be seen and passersby were starting to stare very questioningly at us, asking questions. Fortunately, we were given Ingress flyers by a very well-organized event’s staff in order to spread the Ingress bug.
After handing out the cookies I had lovingly made for my team, the team from Ticino returned to share with us some special intel on their next attack. We returned to our positions and for a while, nothing else but « recharge« , « attack » or « defend » and other orders given by our squad leader could be heard among our ranks.
For a brief moment, we shared a feeling of relief after the first Shard moved to another portal (which later proved to be the wrong one). We nonetheless stayed alert and focused on our following mission, which consisted in listening to the radio with the utmost attention. Our radio operator did a great job of transmitting all the relevant informations related to our positions, the number of players involved, or any need of backup.
We later received a position to rejoin, which first triggered a sense of panic in the heart of our beloved but quite jumpy squad leader. After he calmed down, he managed to pinpoint it and got us to the next targeted area thanks to his careful instructions. Once we got there, it was a repeat of the previous confrontation. We were largely outnumbered but stood firm, saving time for our backup to arrive. Our backup got late again, what the hell were our radio operators up to ? At that point, we started relaxing and joking while firmly preventing our sworn enemies from completing their task. Our relentless efforts finally came to fruition : their Shard held still. The following place told the same story of us being brave though unwaveringly isolated. Up until the point when a teammate spotted a bunch of players wearing our colours and the Ingress logo and running to our rescue. Eventually, we turned into the greater party and our enemies had to back off for a while.
Once again, we managed to prevent our enemies from reaching their goal but couldn’t fulfill our own mission. At 3.20PM, we were on our way to our fourth target when we stopped to get a look at our team’s standings at this point of the competition. We were actually doing great with a crushing 23 to 1.
Morale was high within our team when we finally reached our final destination, filled with players covering every inch of the pavement. Some of these players were young, some not so young, but all were completely focused on their screens. We took a moment to take a few pictures of our team, hand out cookies and pay our respects to the other veterans, even if those were our enemies coming from the same region.
Last portal, final effort. Our squad was one of the most present at that time as many players had already left our battlefield, that is to say the very streets of the city of Zurich.
In the last decisive moments, the last Shards were being moved and the enemy team congratulated us on our victory admist cries of joy. It was then time to celebrate our winning by a landslide 46 to 2. All players then scattered to have a drink with their squad’s comrades and rivals to discuss all the craziness of the day to their heart’s content.
All this tends to prove how social a video game can actually be. Ingress brings people together and takes its players to brand new places, acting as new playgrounds to discover. Like that time when I stood leaning against a statue for 30 minutes straight. What was I doing ? Well, taking a portal, what else ? For those of you who wish to explore their surroundings, make new friends, and partake in special events : join the Resistance !