How Pokemon GO and Ingress Changed Maps We Use


Augmented Reality is one of those technologies that have been recently taking up the spotlight in the tech world. While it has many implementations and uses, most people would be familiar with the term AR gaming. And in that field, we have two major games in the market.

Pokemon Go Ingress Maps
Pokemon GO and Ingress: AR gaming personified

Ingress and Pokemon GO, both developed by Niantic Inc. have a striking similarity. As well as being based on the real world, and thus a real world map, they both use physical real-world landmarks to position in-game objects. Portals in Ingress and Gyms/Pokestops in Pokemon GO all follow the same principle. Usually, they would be religious places, statues, and monuments. Of course, Elyland’s Draconius GO is also on the market, but in-game objects in Draconius GO are not based on real-life landmarks.

So what about object placement?

This strategy has seen a very curious development both among Ingress agents and Pokemon GO trainers. It’s how their navigation is affected by the game. A typical person would go on google maps, type in their destination, and switch on navigation to follow instructions until they reach their desired spot. If you’re using public transport, watch the blue dot and hope you won’t confuse where you should be getting off.

Ingress Pokemon Go Maps
At least it looks more tech-savvy than google maps will ever be

However, for Ingress and Pokemon GO players, life is a different story. Take, for example, our very own Mazin. He and his friends found themselves looking for an unfamiliar location with the simple instructions “it’s next to the temple”. Said friends were in a state of extreme confusion. Mazin, on the other hand, simply noticed the temple was a pokestop and calmly directed everyone there. In Ingress, it becomes even easier, with subways and railways also appearing on the in-game map. Ingress also provides portal navigation, which allows players to go exactly where they’re looking for.

How AR gaming made exploring fun

Many players have found that they have become more knowledgeable about their neighborhood and places they frequently visit since they got into AR gaming. They learned things they should have known that were right under their nose their entire lives.

Let’s spend a day in the shoes of the Pokemon GO trainer WickedSis075. Living in Kandy, she was not the type to go out and explore her city in her spare time, preferring to stay home with a good book instead. However, when Pokemon GO was released, she and her brother started going out and playing. She discovered that Kandy had an extremely large number of churches.

How did she found out? The Pokestops all around the city marking all the different churches. Similarly, trainer NickKlause discovered shortcuts and bypasses in his hometown in Kalutara once he started getting immersed in the world of Pokemon GO.

Ingress Pokemon Go Maps
Pokemon GO directs us to the pokestop we want to go

Ingress agent Paradox2405 found himself planning out routes to attack portals in his hometown while keeping to the less conspicuous streets, a feat made possible by the Ingress community, where agents are trained to not draw attention to themselves while attacking enemy portals.

Exploring new cities with Pokemon GO and Ingress

Often we’ve come across players who have visited/moved to new unfamiliar places, be it city or countryside, and becoming, for a lack of a better word, disoriented. But we’ve also noticed they tend to familiarize themselves with the place through the game and adapt to new locations faster than someone using a conventional map system would.

My experience with the game has been of such a nature. Living in Kandy until a few months ago, my first visit to Colombo was, in summary, overwhelming. However, I managed to familiarize myself with quite a few Pokestops and gyms. Learning the bus routes, I remembered my stops through remembering the closest pokestop. Once I got used to it, I would remember what real life landmark the pokestop was, so even if I didn’t have the game running, I would know where my stop is.

My friend Desh11 also employs a similar strategy when traveling (which he does a lot). The first time, of course, he uses google maps. As soon as he’s close enough he switches Pokemon GO on, and notices all the stops, gyms and map features. From the second time onwards, he won’t need to rely on google maps at all, instead of navigating solely by the in-game map.

MrChiraGaming, another trainer who travels purely to play the game, prefers to just navigate through the in-game map alone, only resorting to google maps as the last resort. Once found, he also memorizes the game map as well as taking note of the physical landmarks for future navigations.

Ingress Pokemon Go Maps
The Ingress pictorial system is a great help for navigation

For ingress players, this is an easier task once again. This is because of the more detailed in-game map and navigation, and also because there are many more portals in Ingress than Pokestops in Pokemon GO. Ingress agent Duval mentioned that communication among Ingress players regarding navigation is almost exclusively oriented around the Ingress map. (“Turn right at this portal then stop 200m to that portal”).

Ingress actually encourages players to explore further cities as a must, unlike Pokemon GO where exploring far is only a viable option. Ingress players often find themselves traveling hundreds of kilometers for anomalies, where navigation plays a crucial role. Yet it can fit into your daily life quite well too. For example, another agent admitted to finding new ways to creatively lengthen his route to work every morning to maximize his portal hacking.

It’s not just cities, but new countries too!

It’s not surprising to see players utilizing their game tools for use in other countries as well. In fact, we would be disappointed if they didn’t! In an unfamiliar country, with an unknown language and little to no means of communication with locals, we rely on maps more than ever. Unfortunately, when we’re that new to an area, sometimes we don’t know what to tell the map either. That’s where the game comes into play.

Ingress Pokemon Go Maps
Found it!

Ingress agent LadyAnu describes her experience in Malaysia made easy by the use of Ingress. If she saw a notable landmark in the distance and wanted to take a closer look, she would look for the portal picture in Ingress, switch on navigation and go there. She also states that the confusing subway system and complex road maps were made easier for her through portal navigation as well. All she had to do was find a portal in the general direction she was aiming for and navigate there. The arrow that results in-game would show her which route she needed to take.

Similarly, the Pokemon GO trainer who goes by the name TheRealHellanga (we haven’t found the fake one yet) describes navigating through various countries with the use of Pokemon GO. One of the more noteworthy moments, he said, was in Germany where he had a favorite place to eat.

How he remembered the place was by remembering the pokestop that happened to be nearby. He would simply go to the vicinity, switch the game on and make his way near the pokestop. However, he does note that he has to be fairly close to the place to follow that particular method of navigation.

So game before maps?

So by the end of the day, we realize that the games we play have made us explore, learn and discover more about the world than we realized. Be it our own city, our own country or someplace totally foreign. It’s truly amazing how something as simple as a game made us better navigators and influenced our travel in such a way. Game before maps, indeed.

Got the urge to step out and go exploring? Pokemon Go is available for Android and iOS. Ingress too is available for Android and iOS.