A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ingress Prime is a massively multiplayer alternate-reality game for iOS and Android devices that requires players to explore the world around them and check in to locations -- kind of a Pokemon Go meets Foursquare. Players "fight" for one of two sides in the game, though there's no violence to speak of. But because players are checking into locations and can chat with others, parents may want to supervise kids and accompany them as they journey to waypoints, which are hot spots within the game. While not included in the game, unmoderated chat could expose players to inappropriate language or comments about sex or substances.
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What's it about?
Players choose one of two rival factions (The Enlightened or The Resistance) battling for control of a mysterious energy source called "Exotic Matter" or "XM". After some basic initial instructions, you begin playing. To gain a victory, you must travel to real-world (user-submitted) locations to gather "XM" and take control of portals around local landmarks. This is done by "hacking" the portals and waypoints by pushing an on-screen button, which checks in the player at that location. There's a global chat feature where you can talk with members of your faction (people who chose the same side as you). The chat is unmoderated, and players often look for others who are nearby. But chat isn't a mandatory part of the game, and other users can be blocked. From time to time, the game offers events called Anomalies, which are community events, having players come together at real world locations to "battle" for control.
Is it any good?
This updated augmented reality game has had a couple of changes, but they're not entirely all for the better of the game. The original Ingress was unique in the app gaming world, blending video games in the real world and laid the groundwork for Pokemon Go, but Ingress Prime has a flashier interface that could prove confusing to veteran players. Worse, the lack of an in-depth tutorial could prove confusing for newcomers. As before, the story and game-playing elements will appeal most to people who immerse themselves in the rather complicated game fiction. (The pushback against the interface was so strong, the company released Scanner REDACTED, which temporarily restores the old look of the game.) Beyond interface confusion, the game drains phone batteries faster and there's sometimes a noticeable lag in the software. And some players will gain an edge by buying advantages, rather than earning them in-game.
Like Pokemon Go, you'll have to get up and walk -- sometimes a fair distance -- to find a portal or waypoint where you can actually play the game. That's great for making kids more active, but it also makes it challenging in a geographic sense. Large cities will have many more portals than small towns, where they can be several miles away, rather than a block or two (and kids may have to cross dangerous roads to get there). The game encourages social interaction, as it takes teams of players from one faction to gain control of a portal run by another. It does require either a Facebook or Google+ account to register, though. That said, because of the location-based interaction and chatting feature, parents either need to play along with their kids or make sure kids are venturing out with trusted friends. Setting strict limits around communication with strangers, either through chat or in person, also is important. The chat functionality is unmoderated, and though it might not always have inappropriate comments, it's certainly possible to appear. You can block other users, there are safety suggestions outlined in the Community Guidelines, and the general culture does seems to be totally game-focused, but this is definitely a game that needs supervision.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of exercise. Is it more fun to move while you play than it is to sit on a couch?
Why should you pay attention to your surroundings when playing an alternate reality game? Have you seen players eager to rush into traffic to get to a waypoint?
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