This is the first in what will hopefully be a regular series of reviews on mobile apps and games for running. They may be traditional apps (MapMyRun, Endomondo), or something completely different, like today’s review of Ingress, a Google game that takes place in real-time in the real world. If you have any ideas for apps you’d like to see reviewed by runners (or yourself!)*, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this post.
* we’re not going to review Angry Birds or Candy Crush and their playability/applicability to running (though we definitely could), so try to stick to apps that are made to be used by runners (traditional) or those that could be used while running (non-traditional.)
If you get bored while running around your city, Ingress will be your new high-mileage running fix! A couple of us have been testing this out for a few months now, and we’re hooked.
The basic story line is that there is a form of “energy” (origin unknown) emanating from public art, sculptures, or culturally-significant places throughout the world. This energy may be either good or bad, and you choose a side depending on how you interpret its purpose. If you believe it is good, you join the ranks of the Enlightened; if you think it is nefarious, you become part of the Resistance.
Your smartphone serves as a scanner to see these energy hotspots (known as Portals) and interact with them. When you are within a certain range of a Portal, you can hack (gain items), capture, or attack it. The goal is to take control of Portals, link them together, and create triangular Control Fields that protect the population within that area from the other faction.
This is a fantastic game for runners for many reasons:
It gets you out and active; you run between portals, alter your route to create new control fields, and explore new places you wouldn’t normally run.
It makes your run much more interesting; many portals are historically significant places or works of art. Many will bring you to new places beyond your normal run commute or long run routes.
It’s fun and challenging; figuring out how to level up, maximize the size of a control field, or destroying what the opposing team created can be a good learning experience.
It can be social; I’m more of a lone wolf, but the Ingress Google+ groups in your area can be extremely active, with regular in-person meetups, that may include general socializing, or planning and coordination of large-scale team operations. If you’re a noob, the members of your group will go well out of their way to help you out, level you up, and show you the ropes.
Tips for runners
– First and foremost: Don’t spend your whole time running looking at your smartphone; it’s dangerous. Stop if you need to, and plan 1/4 or 1/2 mile ahead to see where you are heading next.
– It is best to hold your phone in your hand while running if portals are close. Otherwise, carry your phone in a strap pocket in your pack or hydration vest. My smartphone fits perfectly in either side of my Nathan HPL-020.
– I wouldn’t recommend using earphones.
– Tap a portal ahead of you, and when you get within range, it will tell you that you can hack it.
– Slow down or walk when hacking, to ensure the hack is successful and all items are acquired.
– Need some speedwork? Sprint between portals. Pause, hack, deploy, link, hydrate. Pick the next portal and sprint to it.
This review is just scratching the surface of the game. There is so much more to it, and you’ll learn all about it once you start playing. Good luck!
Requirements: A Gmail account
Release Date: November 16, 2012
Number of players: 7,000,000