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October 2017
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Ingress – Capture Rotterdam, Make Friends

It is late Friday night and I am ready to go out. One last time to go through the checklist. Coat – on me. Phone – charged. Gloves that work with phone – check. External battery – check. Second external battery – check. Wait, what? Why would I need not one, but two external batteries? Because I am not going out to a party. I am going out to help some complete strangers take over Rotterdam.


By now you are probably thinking I am writing this from a chair in a mental institution. All I am doing is playing Ingress – a massive multiplayer augmented reality game on my phone. The game, created by (daughter company of Google), transforms the phone in a “scanner unit” that shows the players nearby “portals” – most of the time an interesting piece of architecture or art – that players should capture for their faction. Ingress uses real time geographic location – the player must be within 21m of the portal in order to be able to interact with it. The two factions struggle to control the world by linking together portals into fields.

Progressing through the lore, you find out the Enlightened – the faction that believes the aliens that come through those portals would benefit humanity and thus be allowed to enter, and the Resistance – the faction that believes aliens are nothing but trouble. No matter which end of the fight the player ends up on, the battle continues without a moment’s rest.

Now that you know I am not completely insane, let me explain what that Friday was all about. Rotterdam is a relatively big city that hosts a whole lot of portals. As with other games, some take it more seriously and are much more active than others. “CoolLion” is a rigorous Resistance member that is well known to spend a good amount of time annoying the Enlightened. So the Enlightened decided to teach him a lesson by making the area around his home green.

“Crazy Control” is the name of our operation and “Agil” – a veteran player – is our leader. I am assigned to the first of four teams – Apple – which is a pedestrian team. Team Bacon is operating from a car, while Cheesecake and Donut (yes, those are the actual names of the teams) are pedestrians. Each team has a leader that receives commands from Agil and relays them to us. The next hour goes in the following manner: “Capture this portal. Standby for instructions. Link. Move to next portal.” The end result is a massive green filed over Rotterdam. CoolLion is bound to be annoyed.

animationResults of Operation “Crazy Control” Source: Crazy Control recap

Being done with the hard part, all teams converge into a local pub for hot chocolate and beer. Agil congratulates us on a job well done. His real name is Erwin and is currently a student in Rotterdam. The group is diverse – businessmen, programmers, artists, students. Most Dutch, the language of the evening is English for the few internationals. We discuss some serious topics, but the conversation quickly turns to sharing stories related to the game. I am updated that CoolLion has a new job, a new car, no longer has time to play Ingress during the cover of the night, but is still grumpy. Apparently someone knows him or has met him on other occasions.

I have to thank Ingress for introducing me to such great people. It all started when I was playing alone in the Erasmus Campus. I got a message from a player asking me if I was a new player and inviting me to join the local community channels. Some messages later I was part of “Enlightened Rotterdam”, “Enlightened NL”, and “Erasmus MC group” which mainly consists of PHD students and professors (who find time to play before their lectures at 9 in the morning). With the latest updates, players are able to create and follow missions – several locations around the city with explanations to what is so important about them – which players can follow and learn about the city on their own. It gives a truly local perspective of Rotterdam.

Even though the events around the second anniversary of the game have just concluded, the scanner is far from quiet. Niantic organizes global events called Anomalies that bring players together in mass numbers with the aim to control a certain city at a certain point in time. Other activities include introduction sessions for new players aimed to get them familiar with the game and local community.


All you have to do to join the fight is download Ingress from the Play Store for Android or the Apple Store for iOS, choose Enlightened and start hacking. From there on, just say you’re looking for the local community in the chat and soon enough the community will get in touch with you. Don’t expect people to trust you with operation secrets right away – you might be an enemy spy.

Fifteen minutes after we started our drinks we get notifications that our field is under attack. Despite our efforts, it is destroyed. We grief for a moment that our hard work is no more, but the happiness and team spirit quickly prevail. We had our moment of glory.

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