Sunday, June 23

How to Gamify Data Collection: Watch Niantic and Ingress

Over the past few months, my free time in between going from home to work has been taken up by a strange and often unusual-looking game called Ingress.

For the uninitiated, Ingress is a product of the founder of Google Maps in a company called Niantic Labs (found at  Initially, you had to vie for an invite (reminiscent of GMail invites) and could win an invite by doing all sorts of intriguing things (e.g., bake a cake int he shape of the team logos).

The premise is simple - two teams (Enlightened and Resistance) are vying for the mind units of Earth.  Once you join a team, you learn about Portals (physical locations that have been identified by other members and approved by Niantic), Resonators (essentially batteries that power the Portals for your team) and XMPs (eXotic Matter Pulse bombs that drain Resonators, and thus Portals until there is no energy left in the Portal to become neutral -- which then you could take over with your Resonators).  As you begin to create Portals with your team, you can connect them with Links and three links in a triangle shape can become a Field which essentially "captures" Mind Units (read: people) for your team.

People liken this game to geo-caching, Capture the Flag, and even Risk.  And, what I find amazing is the number of people that both play the game and are actively participating in the game.  In London, I am constantly invited to create "farms" (higher level Portals that people can farm for Resonators and XMPs) all across the city and even outside.  And this weekend had a great deal of us across London, Paris, Dover, Scotland and Belgium working together on an interesting competition against the other team.  We got shirts and badges and even some neat kit if we were able to take a photo of one of the Niantic "agents" toward the end of the game.

Gamification and the Ingress Game

One of the interesting things I have been doing since I joined the game has been looking at what and why this game even exists.  There is no money to be made (e.g., Niantic does not charge for this), there is a huge cost to this game (see these pages for the amount of equipment you may need to purchase to play) and even the impact to your battery when playing (this game uses your GPS, your wifi and your data plan insanely).

So why would Niantic be making such a game?  And why spend money on plans like taking over different territories in different geographies?

So - my thoughts are based on what Niantic is getting from this project and how ARGs are helping achieve goals of various companies - including Google.

Building a Volunteer Army