Tech by VICE

Why 'Ingress' Players Held a 'Pokémon Go' Party

It's one big augmented reality family.

by Megan Devlin
Jul 28 2016, 3:15pm

Alex Hegazy is a long-time Ingress player. Image: Megan Devlin

A couple of days after Pokémon Go was released in the UK, Louise Brooks-Lowe helped fans find the 27 pokéstops around London's O2 arena for a massive lure party she helped organise. Lure parties are when Pokémon Go players buy in-game items to attract the virtual creatures to places—pokéstops—that are linked to real-world locations.

Brooks-Lowe is no stranger to augmented reality gaming, or to related real-life player meetups. She's been playing map-based game Ingress for over a year.

Louise Brooks-Lowe helps Sophia Lum, a Pokémon fan, locate all the pokéstops that were lured around London's O2 arena on July 16. Image: Megan Devlin

Ingress was Niantic's first foray into the world of augmented reality gaming, released back in 2013. It's a sci-fi adventure game that uses the same mapping infrastructure that Pokémon Go is built on; in fact, Pokémon Go's pokéstops were crowdsourced from Ingress players. Pokémon players receive items from the landmarks, but in Ingress they're known as portals. Players on two opposing Ingress factions—the Enlightenment and the Resistance—fight to control these portals and link them with others across the globe.

So what were Ingress players doing at a Pokémon event, and what do they think of the new game getting worldwide attention?

17-year-old Jade Knight came dressed her favourite Eevee evolution, Leafeon. Image: Megan Devlin

Stazey Hokes, Brooks-Lowe's partner, has been a Pokémon fan for 20 years. In fact, that's why the couple began playing Ingress—because Hokes heard talk of Pokémon Go being developed.

"We got involved with Ingress because of Pokémon Go," Brooks-Lowe said. "We decided we would learn … how the framework worked, and from there we would understand how Pokémon Go worked and have an upper hand."

Hokes secretly hoped that by getting to level eight in Ingress, they'd be selected to test beta versions of Pokémon Go.

"[Pokémon Go] is definitely drawing people in and we're seeing a lot of new recruits being signed into the Ingress game"

"I initially got into it because Pokémon was my thing," she said. "But I have to say, Ingress has really caught me."

From speaking to people at the lure party, it seems that players who have heard the Pokemon Go hype are also turning to Ingress for a different augmented reality experience. Since Pokémon Go was released, Hokes said she'd noticed a spike in sign-ups for Niantic's original game.

"It's definitely drawing people in and we're seeing a lot of new recruits being signed into the Ingress game itself," agreed Lina Falconer, an Ingress player.

Alex Hegazy (left) and Lina Falconer (right) are both long time Ingress players.Image: Megan Devlin

Although Niantic hasn't released official numbers, Quartz reports that app analysis firm Sensor Tower's predictive model of the app store has shown Ingress downloads spike from 2,000-3,000 a day to 16,000 a day on July 6—when Pokémon Go was first released.

Falconer isn't surprised by the interest the lure party garnered. She's used to Ingress meetups—known as "anomalies"—reaching thousands of attendees.

"You meet all sorts of different types of people [at anomalies]," Falconer said. "This is quite normal. This isn't anything unusual."

Brooks-Lowe at the party booth. Image: Megan Devlin

Brooks-Lowe thinks it's funny that people are freaking out about Pokémon players walking the real world when Ingress players have been doing the same for years.

"[Ingress players are] feeling that for three and a half years they've played this game without any drama, without any media exposure," Brooks-Lowe told me.

"The staunch Ingressers are really unhappy about the bad press that Pokémon Go is bringing to the game," she added, referring to would-be pokémon trainers falling off cliffs and trespassing in the US Holocaust Museum.

Alex Hegazy, an Ingress player who came to the O2 event, said Ingress ignorance bothers him.

"It's annoying me, because I'm reading articles about Pokémon Go and I can see the journalist hasn't done proper research," he said. "They think it's like a brand new thing or it's the first time we've had this technology available. But it's been available for years for Ingress."

Lure party swag. Image: Megan Devlin

Hokes said one element that's missing from Pokémon Go is the real-time chat with other players offered in Ingress. However, she speculates Niantic omitted that to prevent children from being preyed upon.

Several Pokémon fans checking in at the lure party had never heard of Ingress before, but the appeal of meeting like-minded players brought them out nonetheless.

"[I came] just to kind of catch pokémon and meet new people who also play Pokémon," said 17-year-old Jade Knight. "It's all, like, a massive community. I mean I've already met new people today."

Given the shared maps in the games, there's reason for both Ingress and Pokémon Go players to go to the same places. "So the great thing about it is you can actually play both games at the same time," said Hokes.