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The sad state of gaming

A couple of months ago I received an invite to Ingress.  I was quite pleased about getting an invite to it, as here was a game that was trying to do something completely different.  the concept behind Ingress is that the world we live in suddenly has these portals all around us, which exude eXotic Matter (XM).  There are two factions in the world, the Enlightened, who have chosen to accept XM is able to advance our lives; and Resistance, which will fight against XM.  Of course that’s just a story, something to draw you into the experience.

The game play involves players on either side fighting for control of these portals, and creating links and fields to take overall control of the maps.  The XM is kind of like your usual energy bar, but instead of this getting replenished over time, it gets replenished as you walk around collecting it.  You have a circle of influence and any XM in that circle is drawn to you.  You can then use that XM to hack portals; deploy resonators to take/keep control of those portals; or create links, with each triangle of links creating a field.  The area of those fields is all added up to show which faction has the most control of a map.

Now that all sounded pretty good to me.  Sure, it still had the “issue” that those who played more would have an advantage over those that didn’t; but in this case, to truly use that time effectively, you HAD to keep moving.  XM is created over time, so if you stay in one position, your “energy bar” would take ages to refill; which then meant you struggle to do anything.  Without doing anything you do not get your “action points” (AP) which are effectively your experience points.  So I was all for people wasting their lives on a game, if that meant they would be walking around out there and getting exercise.

The game also meant that social interaction would help you advance through the levels.  A group can help you do harder tasks a lot easier, so playing it with other people would always have benefits.

One final bonus to the game was that it helped you get to know the local area a little better.  You might have walked home the same way every day for months or years, but suddenly looking at the map you see a new portal has just crept up, and you think right I’ll just walk that way.  Once there you see two other portals within easy reach so you go to them too.  Before you know it, you realise that your fifteen minute walk home has now started to turn into a thirty minute walk, and during that walk you’ve found a cool new park, and some great little cafes and restaurants.

So it sounds great, where’s the problems?  Was it the fact that many were using transportation to help them? No… although that did in fact mean that many were not getting any exercise from playing the game, at least they were going out there and discovering new areas.  Also, there’s nothing really in the rules about not using transportation and I have to say some of the ways people are getting around is impressive.  Some have used helicopters, others have used hovercrafts, others are cycling around.  That’s all very impressive just to play a game, which when it boils down to it is just about leveling up… and there’s only eight levels to get through, so it’s not like you can go nuts.

So is it due to there being too many high level people around? Well to a small extent it can be when you first start out.  You’re hardly able to put a dent in some of the portals when you start out, but you can still go around doing things that help you level.  When I first started there were hardly any portals around, so getting up through the levels was tough, but in the five or six months I’ve been playing I’ve seen a huge rise in the number of portals (largely caused by there being more players around, thus requiring more portals to give new players a chance to level up).  So when I started it was kind of difficult to advance but I still found it fun to go around getting APs here and there from hacking enemy portals, or being able to deploy the odd resonator here or there, and maybe getting a link or maybe a field up occasionally.  As you level it becomes a little easier to get APs, but of course it gets harder to level.

So what then is the issue? Simple, people just seem to be addicted to cheating in games just to increase their meaningless level.  Put up a high score list and there’s always somebody who’s looking to get to the top regardless of the cost.  The game checks to see if you have location spoof on, but it has no way of stopping somebody doing the same if they have rooted their phones.  Indeed, even more recently somebody has created an app that even gets you round the need to root your phone and still not being stopped for spoofing location.

You finally get a developer looking to try and get people being more active, maybe a little more sociable, and along come people just looking to “prove” how awesome they are.  It just kind of cheapens it all for everybody.  Those guys who make it to the top by working hard will always have somebody out there accusing them of cheating, all because others are clearly doing it.

Sadly, I can only see it getting worse.  Recently there’s even been people looking to sell the items they got in the game to others for real life money.  Here is a game that requires absolutely no money to play, something that is looking to have people interact with others face to face, and get some exercise and fresh air.; but people just feel the need to ruin that for sake of being top.  Of course now that there is an added incentive of maybe being able to sell items, there’s just a bit more of an incentive to cheat.

There’s still plenty of fun to be had in the game, but I just wish the game developers would finally do something about it.  Some of those cheating are so blatant about it, and many file reports on those players but you see those players still active in the game six months later, and it just makes you think why bother?

It’s just sad that in this day and age more and more people are just “in it” for the statistics.  it seems that every game has to have some sort of statistics and certain “gamers” idea of fun is to get to the best statistics without having to actually play legitimately.  In my opinion they started out well enough with only eight levels.  Sure it takes a bit of time to get to the top, but if you were to put some effort into the game you could easily get to level eight in a couple of months.  I only really play on the way to and from the office, and I’m on level seven, so if somebody wanted to put in say a couple of hours a day, maybe a bit more at the weekend, they could easily make it to eight a lot quicker.  However, they then also made it possible to collect all sorts of other stats (number of level 8 portals destroyed; no of resonators deployed; no of portals put online etc etc).  If they just did away with that there would be less people bothering to cheat.  Similarly a limit to the number of items somebody could get in one day from hacking portals might limit people from finding it worthwhile to cheat.

The annoying thing is the lack of action by the game developer.  There’s been plenty of “bigger” games that have just become a mess of cheaters doing whatever they want because it’s just not being cracked down on sufficiently by the game developers.  Imagine if being caught cheating on your android device on any game not only got you banned from that game but also got you banned from the Play store on that account.  Surely that would stop people ruining games for others.


Edit – Forgot to mention that I do actually have six invites for the game, so if anybody out there wants to give it a try let me know and I’ll send you an invite.


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