Ingress History Pt I: /r/ingress from 11/15 - 12/31

d0gboyd0gboy ✭✭✭
edited December 2020 in General


Ingress launched in its public beta on November 15, 2012. Before this, an ARG (that’s alternate reality game, not augmented reality game) had teased the existence of the Niantic Project and the scanner. Successful participants in the game, Googlers, and other select soon-to-be-agents received invite codes for Ingress. The Ingress subreddit (/r/ingress) was created on launch day. I used the reddit API to extract a month and a half of posts, ending on Dec 31st. I picked this corpus of data to look at because it was early, and because of the difficulties of wrestling with G+ -- Google’s swerve towards the deletionist impulse has left gaps in the collective history of more than one community. Do bear this in mind when you create content in the future -- internet giants have proven an untrustworthy partner for virtually any historic project, and the ease of data creation may mean more libraries of data burn daily than in any Alexandria of antiquity.

This early time in Ingress’ history was formative. Here we can see the formation of the first communities, rivalries, the birth of Ingress’ agent culture, large fields, confusion and clarity about game mechanics, faction choice, what battery packs to buy, and intense debates about the dangers of GPS spoofers to the game -- and that was the first three days.

For people who play Ingress today, many things were absent at launch. Notably, there was no initial cap on inventory, no capsules, no septicycle scores, no inventory layout screen, and the commitment to carousel motion was even stronger. Also missing was open access to the game. Since invite codes were required, Niantic pushed them out through a wide variety of mechanisms -- sometimes over IRC, sometimes to people who completed puzzles which suffused the lore, and most of all to people who showed off their creativity on social media. The last would prove enduring as the amount of Ingress player-created art whose creative output would basically eclipse official content many times over.

What is striking is that despite the things that were missing is that in a very short time the things that make Ingress Ingress began to emerge. The game incentivizes being social as a winning strategy -- so communities began to spring up almost immediately. Many of these communities did not persist, but those that did went on to shake the game’s play and still exist even now. People experienced the magic of meeting friends (and foes) out in the real, and it made them realize that Ingress was a really rare and new thing. People began making larger and larger fields -- and other people complained. At the same time, cheaters learned the thrill of tormenting people invested in a virtual game tied to the real world. Farms became a thing; the first level 8 portal took only six weeks to make, freeing many players from the handfuls of items that they got from item codes. Always with us was a persistent question -- what is Ingress for even?



This is a list of firsts. Remember these were all taken from Reddit; it’s possible these things happened in parallel on g+, or happened in the game without notice, but given that this subreddit was created on the same day Ingress was released, in many cases it was a primary source.


Nov 15th:


Nov 16th:


Nov 17th:


Nov 18th:


Nov 19th:

Nov 21st:

Nov 29th

Dec 2nd

Dec 4th

Dec 13th:


Dec 15th:


Dec 16th:


Dec 17th:


Dec 18th:


Dec 22nd


Dec 23rd



“Links are just the beginning. If we use links to enclose an area like this one, a polarized XM field is formed…”

                                                       -- Oliver Lynton Wolfe (

 When Ingress started, there was no septicycle (or cell scoreboards). Instead, there was just a periodically updated global score which tallied all the MU standing in the world at a particular time.


As today, people had questions.

Even outside of the limitations global score, there was an attraction to large fielding as a source of agency and fame -- “your name in lights”. As today, there were people who complained about fields interfering with play, the likelihood of cheating, and (most of all) there being very little insight into why the scoreboard was what it said. Within just a few weeks of Ingress we see reports from people who had driven hours or walked for hours to make fields; the game was afoot! Here we can see a graph generated by players early on, racking total global MU over time.

All told, this was a somewhat mythical era in fielding. Large cities could be fielded with a simple application of time by a single team or a single person owing to the lack of portal density or same-team blockers. No effective counter-fielding existed, but this is fortunate since there were also no ADAs or Jarvises. Early fielders simply had to wait for the other side to smash, or to desperately convince other players not to recharge.

Later, fielding would become much more difficult, but so too would the fields themselves become more difficult to take down; breeding some of the most intense and competitive Ingress gameplay when it became coupled with more regional and time-based scoring mechanics. Below is a list of posts celebrating fields and fielding-related posts of note. Given the early stages of Ingress and its communities, there is seldom a way for us to verify the provenance of these fields. Some (perhaps even the first) were the work of spoofers; others were made by legitimate players, and others still somewhere in between. Other posts concern the mechanics of fielding and feature questions that even seasoned Ingress agents still ask.

Over time fielding would become a culture all its own in Ingress and “to be a fielder” became a well-defined type of person. But in November of 2012 no one was -- these posts chronicle the beginning of that idea.


November 16th:

November 17th:

November 19th:

November 20th:

Nov 21st

Nov 22nd

Nov 24th:

  • Ghost field

Nov 25th:

Nov 26th:

Nov 29th:

Dec 1st:

Dec 2nd:

Dec 3rd:

Dec 4th:

Dec 5th:

Dec 6th:

Dec 7th:

Dec 9th:

Dec 10th: - -> Seattle field/Saboosh banned.

Dec 14th:

Dec 15th:

Dec 16th:

Dec 17th:

Dec 20:

Dec 21st:

Dec 23rd:

Dec 24th:

Dec 27th:


The World as it Was

Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.


When Ingress began, the world was drastically different. What portals there were came from databases of historic markers (such as, curated from Panoramio (a geo-first photo sharing site purchased by Google), post offices, and a few other thing sources. As a result, seeing ten portals in a group was causes for a celebration; seeing a park of 30 was a bonanza.

One overlooked fact about early Ingress is that even though the player base was small, the relative shortage of portals meant your odds of meeting another agent in the field was much higher. The portals were like watering holes in the day and campfires at night; they were a place people came together. The scarcity of portals (and agents to link them) made many fields possible that would not be easy or even possible until flip cards and organized communities came into their own in the next year. For places without portals, the ability to submit new portals from the scanner arrived soon, and then the world truly began to change.

This section contains screenshots people posted from their home cities. Often this was show off what they’d done on their first day, or to comment on how many (or how few) portals they had. A few people took time out of their day to take screenshots of cities for people who didn’t yet have an invite -- so they could see how the factions were balanced or whether there would even be portals waiting for them. These provide an invaluable time capsule of 2012, and hopefully you can see the beginnings of the cities we all Ingress in today.


Along with the posts listed chronologically below, I also created a Google Photos album with some of the images from this list:


Nov 17th:

Nov 18th:

Nov 19th:

Nov 20th

Nov 25th

Nov 27th:

Nov 28th

Nov 29

Nov 30

Dec 1

Dec 2nd

Dec 4th

Dec 6th

Dec 7th

Dec 8th

Dec 10th

Dec 16th

Dec 22nd

(Contd -

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