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and community-building skills as a consultant. “I’m not a leader to this extent in my private [non-Ingress] life,” she says. “I had it in me to be a leader, but I felt I didn’t have the pedigree. I didn’t go to college until 2005. I felt very overlooked. With Ingress, I didn’t need anyone’s approval, so I was able to break out. After Links Across America, I wanted to see how far I could go. My dream is to do this for a living, maybe for a company.”
Soon, a lot more people may also get pulled in by the allure of Ingress. Later this year, it’s expected to be available in the iOS store for the first time. Niantic Labs also recently inked a deal with HarperCollins and “A Million Little Pieces” author James Frey to turn Frey’s Young Adult trilogy “Endgame” into a multimedia augmented reality experience. Hanke also won’t rule out a future Ingress movie or television series. “It’s such a rich universe,” he notes.
Hanke also says he’s looking forward to seeing if mass adoption of wearable technology—Google Glass, smart watches, and the like—will influence and change augmented reality games like Ingress. I asked him if Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and CEO, plays Ingress. “He has played, and he’s a big fan of our product,” Hanke says. “When he found out people were getting tattoos of faction logos, I could see his eyes go big.”
I also asked Hanke if the factions are meant to be allegorical to how people feel about Google—some take the “enlightened” view that Google makes great products to help humanity, while others form the “resistance” opinion that Google is vacuuming up our data and monetizing our behavior. Hanke replies, “I’ve never heard that before, but that’s an interesting take. When we were creating the Ingress story, we went to great lengths to make sure there are no clear good or bad guys.”
Meanwhile, Besh is preparing to be a guest of Niantic Labs in Mountain View, CA, soon. Niantic is flying her out for a reception celebrating Ingress’s elite five agents. It’s a validation for Besh, a definitive honor that cements the fact that her thousands of hours playing Ingress have served a higher purpose—namely, her real life.
“When you’re out playing, you’re dreaming and scheming,” she says. “Sometimes, you’re literally running around town chasing each other. You feel young again, and you don’t want to go back to your old life. I like this life. I can take these connections I’m making in Ingress and do good things with it.”
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