In many ways, today had been a long time coming. The whole holiday had included an undercurrent of casual Ingress that had been threatening to erupt to the surface in one concentrated outpouring of nerdery for some time. It seems inevitable that if it was going to happen anywhere, it would be in Portland.
Okay, let’s start at the beginning. For those that haven’t encountered it, Ingress is a smartphone game that many millions of users play around the world. The game is set in a science fiction setting in which aliens or something are doing something or other to the world and blah blah blah, I’m not really sure to be honest. All you really need to know is that Ingress is a game that encourages you to visit places around the world and “hack” various statues and landmarks (portals) in order to “control” them and gain points. There’s two teams, and you pick a team at the start and from then on you’re in constant competition with the other team. It’s basically nerd catnip, but it has the added advantage of getting you out and about doing exercise. It’s also a surprisingly good tourist guide in an unfamiliar city because it takes you to all of the odd little places that you would otherwise have overlooked.
So with today looking like another ridiculously hot Portland day, we decided to wander up into the centre of the city and play some serious Ingress. Serious Ingress, it should be said, looks pretty much like people wandering around, staring intently at their phones, occasionally waving them around to get a better position and then shouting “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”. It also looks fairly nefarious to the casual observer, so you’re often the recipient of funny looks.
None of this mattered to us though, since we were having a rare old time wandering around downtown Portland, merrily hacking statues and linking portals. We spent most of the morning doing this, strolling through the central area, up to the Pearl District and back through the other side.
Portland, it should be said, is really lovely. It’s known for its walkability, and we had no trouble getting where we needed to go. It also has a very laid back feel to it, and today in particular saw the central square given over to a flower festival and funky elementary school glockenspiel displays. We sat and had a cold drink while watching this for a short while before setting off for more Ingress.
As we sauntered through the town, we noticed a small park that contained a large number of unclaimed portals. In Ingress terms, these are basically sure-things since you can just stroll up and claim them for points. So we did just that, gradually making our way up the park and grabbing them as we were going. Towards the top of the park, we both noticed that our earlier portals were being wrested from our control by a member of the opposition team. This is very odd in Ingress, we seldom find ourselves playing at the same time as other players. Yet somewhere in the park, someone else was undoing our work.
Suddenly, Michelle jumped into action. She looked around, located a point and set off, running, back across the park and over the street. This is, I’ll be perfectly honest, the first time I’ve seen her run. So, stunned, I took off after her. When she reached her destination, she turned to me, wild-eyed and shouted “this is where where make our stand!” It was like Gerrard Butler in 300, or Mel Gibson in Braveheart. I was inspired, and a little bit aroused, and we got to work defending our chosen point.
We couldn’t see our adversary, he/she could have been any of the countless people in the park staring at their phones, so we set to work blindly defending “our” portal. It didn’t go well for us at first, as we initially lost control, but we rallied and combined our forces and gradually we wrested control back from our nemesis. As the rest of the park fell, only our portal remained, and there it ended. A tiny battle, in the grander scheme of Ingress, but a significant one.
We retired, exhilarated, feeling a little pang of nerd-shame, for a lemonade and a nice cold beer.
Final drive tomorrow, a couple of hundred miles north to Seattle, home of grunge and Frasier, for the last stop before home!