Ingress, Pokémon and Published!

You may have noticed our absence as of late. Rest assured we are alive and well — traveling, tasting and tweeting. We are spending less time indoors, and more time out. And the result? Weight loss and a better outlook on life. In addition, I can add “author” in a mainstream publication, to my list!

Resistance is NOT Futile

A Resistance control field and a fun sticker from the local group.

We’ve joined the Resistance! What is that you ask? Are we suddenly starting our own political party, running our own candidate or attempting to dissuade the media from their ridiculous coverage of an even more ridiculous Presidential candidate? No! But we have joined the Houston Resistance in a battle for the planet. (okay that’s a little extreme — but there are some players who actually get that serious about the game). The Resistance is one faction of Ingress — a location-based, worldwide multiplayer online game developed by a company called Niantic. Once part of Google, Niantic released the game first exclusively for Android devices in November 2012. Bastille Day two years later, the Apple geeks got an invite. We had no idea it was going on, until several of Joe’s coworkers recruited him to play. There are two factions — the Enlightened, whose faction color is day glow green, and the Resistance, whose team color is a Detroit Lions Blue.

To play the game, individual players or faction members capture “portals” which are places of cultural significance, such as public art, landmarks, monuments, and in our part of Houston — churches and playgrounds favored by a particular family who calls themselves “Guardian Hunters.” Progress is measured by the number of Action Points (or AP) awarded for things like destroying enemy portals, capturing, linking (creating imaginary triangles) or creating and controlling a field. Players progress through levels 1 through 8 via AP, and levels 8 through 16 via AP and badges. Each badge has its own criteria, but the guardian is the most difficult to attain. A guardian portal is one that a particular player controls for a period of time. The easiest badge to earn for Guardian is three days, which will give you a Bronze. The most difficult is Onyx, which requires the player control one portal continuously for 150 days.

The aforementioned family, and self-proclaimed “A Team” (who has created and offered their own trading cards*, as if they are professional sports players, after the patriarch posted how much they dislike all local players) makes it their business to destroy guardian portals close to the time someone might badge. One particular jerk move is to destroy the portal about a minute before a player reaches 150 days. It is the ultimate asshole move favored and directed by guardian hunters and their minions. To do this against a particularly aggressive player is probably not completely unwarranted. But the  family targets the nicest people who are mainly playing to get out of the house and make friends. One weekend they targeted every Resistance “agent” in Southeast Houston, Clear Lake and League City.  Needless to say, this is not particularly well-liked, by either blue or green.  Perhaps they do not know how mean this tactic really is?

The coolest thing about Ingress, apart from having to get your ass off your couch to play, is that you end up meeting people you might not ever have otherwise encountered. Apart from the group of NASA geeks, we have met a guy who makes some pretty awesome corn whiskey; a couple of elite jet mechanics; a lady who does IT for her church; a guy who climbs poles for a cable provider and a couple who work in the medical profession. We met them “farming” (for weapons, power cubes or shields to protect the portals) which led to special ops that created multi-state “fields.”

Suffice it to say there are many intricacies to the game. Outside of Fantasy Football (for which we no longer have time), it’s the first true “team” sport I have ever played. My experience with video games is limited to Asteroids, Pac-Man, and Wii at a friend’s house — and I never really understood the appeal. But with the excuse to get out of the house and see more has allowed us to lose weight and do something fun together. The game is addictive, however, so don’t enter into it lightly.

It is not Pokémon GO — but created the PokéStops where players get items or gyms where they battle. In fact, the local community had no idea the game was even going on until the Pokémon players started doing stupid things like walking into traffic, or in front of moving cars, or onto private property looking for Poké Balls or Squirtles. Our college-age son plays Pokémon, but we prefer Ingress. You can learn more about it on the unofficial site — Decode Ingress.

The Power of Gratitude

Chicken Soup for the Soul th ePower of GratitudeI mentioned I am an author in a mainstream publication. About a year and a half ago a friend forwarded an e-mail that listed paid-for writing gigs. One in particular stood out — they were looking for stories with silver linings. Writing the story was not difficult — it was the editing it down to 1200 words that was tough. I got an e-mail telling me they had received so many stories that they were setting aside my story for a future publication. I thought it was just a nice way of telling me “Thanks, but no Thanks.” But at the beginning of the year I got an editor’s “proof” to approve!

My story “What a Difference One Point Can Make” leads Chapter 8 “Silver Linings” in the latest in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series: The Power of Gratitude compiled and edited by Amy Newmark & Deborah Norville – Host of Inside Edition.

Says publisher Amy Newmark, “We usually get around 5,000 submissions for each Chicken Soup title and we read every single one. Every submission is read by our team of editors, and it takes months to read them all and then narrow down the list to 2 or 300 finalists for me. “

Pretty cool, eh? My story isn’t a typical Chicken Soup for the Soul story. Even Joe liked it — and he is not one for such books. My story is a personal one — as all Chicken Soup for the Soul stories must be. Here is an excerpt:

“My father is the calm in the storm to my mother’s “Chicken Little.” Recently he was on the news, calming a cafeteria full of students after a school shooting. He attends church and teaches Sunday school. He helps disadvantaged and at-risk students. He is my pillar of strength, the guy I called when I first moved to Houston and felt lost and hopeless in the Big City. He can’t have cancer. Not my dad.”

from What a Difference One Point Can Make in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Gratitude, by Amy Corron Power

If you’d like to read it in its entirety, as well as the other 100 stories about gratitude, it is available in bookstores and on Amazon.

We will get back to stories about wine, food and travel soon. For now, we must go hack some “uniques!”


The WineWonkette

*Not all agents with trading cards think themselves professional athletes. Some are very nice human beings. Others we like anyway.