Monday 9 December 2019

Ingress - Dublin Helios Anomaly Event defies the Irish weather

Frank Whelan & Mark McConville

Frogs and Smurfs came from all over the world today to take part in Dublin's latest Ingress anomaly event: Helios.

You'd be forgiven if the above sentence makes no sense to you. Ingress, an augmented reality game created by Google's Niantic Labs, has been quite the underground past-time in Ireland, but this seems set to change.

The game, played on mobile devices, is like a cross between capture the flag and geo-caching. You can read our full review here.

Today's event saw players gather at Grand Canal Dock, ready for the 1pm start. The game runs over four hours, with a reading of the scores every hour. Each team tries to achieve maximum points on the hour, with the fighting on-going in-between. At 5pm the teams meet for the final results and an end party.

The Resistance (blue "Smurfs") and The Enlightened (green "Frogs") were out in force, wearing team colours and headphones. The two groups kept their own company and it soon became clear just how serious this game was taken.

The psychological warfare started when the rain came. "Hey, I thought you frogs liked the rain!" someone in blue shouted, as The Enlightened took shelter. The Resistance bravado was clear in our interviews: "We are the Resistance, it's win or win." The Enlightened down-played their chances, possibly because Dublin was overwhelmingly Enlightened territory before this weekend.

When the game began, the two factions split in to smaller teams, each with a leader. There was a panic when we tried to take some video that might show one of the battle plans. The orders had come from on high that no outsider eyes could see the plans, even neutral journalists who were somewhat confused by the fluster. The organisation was thorough to the point of being able to teach terrorists cells a thing or two.

Although we weren't allowed know any specifics, we were given an overview of The Enlightened game plan. Each small group had specific predetermined targets around the city, with roaming squads and rapid response units on bikes.

With everyone we spoke to, the sense of community was clear. Players were making friends and some were even going to the lengths of travelling to different countries to support their factions.

The community element is key to the game's on-going survival and events such the as Helios anomaly help connect players to the global struggle. Green dominated Dublin could easily have led to Enlightened boredom and a lost cause for the Resistance, but today we left a green office and returned to a blue one, along with most of North Inner City Dublin. The influx of international Resistance players has served to effectively reset the map, keeping the game fresh and ensuring on-going interest.

World Map during Jarvis Shards event
World Map during Jarvis Shards event

Ingress is easy to begin and free to play on iOS and Android. The real question is: Which side will you choose?

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