From digital to reality: a Vancouver adventure

Photo by Colin Knowles | Flickr

Having lived in Vietnam all my life, I decided to take a journey beyond and explore the vast cultures Vancouver has to offer. Indeed, the city accommodates a safe place for people from many backgrounds: from adopting multiple languages on public signs to helping people of different nationalities, to establishing the freedom of exercising various religious beliefs to supporting LGBTQ+ rights with the annual Pride parade. Joining in on the welcoming atmosphere, I wanted to give back to my community, so I volunteered for a good cause: to help preserve Japanese cultural heritage and to help preserve Vietnamese cultural traditions. Think of it as a twist of fate, if you like, as I soon found myself chasing after another journey, which was rather peculiar because it was within the realm of the digital: specifically in Ingress, a virtual reality game.

The game is created by Niantics – the same company that introduced “Pokemon Go,” which held the world’s attention. Ingress uses Google maps’ data to form its own playground that requires players to move around physically, which leads to a variety of meet-ups in every city.

Initially, I ran around SFU on Burnaby Mountain and toyed around with the game. Suddenly, a player welcomed me to the Ingress community in my chat section. We chatted for a while and the player asked me to join their online community, which I had not heard of before. Upon joining in, people were very supportive to new players like me.

Coming across an event post in a community group, I decided to message everyone to meet up. For the first time during my stay, I got a lift from a player in the group. On our way, we picked up other people. In all honesty, I felt quite scared about driving with a stranger on the road. However, contrary to my cautions, everyone created a trusting and open atmosphere by introducing themselves first. We then started chatting about our daily lives and life stories. Thanks to that, I got to know a lot more about this city: the beautiful Lafarge Lake, the history behind the Westwood Plateau and much more. Plus, their life’s stories were filled with whimsical shenanigans, which was hilarious to hear. I was surprised to see how quickly and how well everyone got along, even though we were technically strangers to each other. In spite of the odds that no one came from the same background, we all got along as friends.

After navigating through the congested traffic, we arrived at the location. The mission, in general, is to hunt down neutral “portals” and claim them as fast as you can before the enemy does. We quickly scattered throughout the area in search of “portals,” while keeping watch on our enemies’ activities. I soon came across a nearby group of “portals,” which were just a few steps away. As I was about to capture them, the portal turned green – my rivals were there. We decided to continue together as we battled heroically. Sadly, the journey soon came to an end. I felt like we were all as happy and as geeky as we could have been.

I boiled down the adventure to people sharing a passion for gaming, holding events for people just for the sake of having fun and creating an open playground for everyone. There are bad apples, however, among the wide array of good ones but it doesn’t stop me from engaging in the community. I am very thankful for the fun I have had and for the people of the city of Vancouver welcoming me to their community unconditionally. The fun never seems to stop when I go on a virtual trip with my teammates, wherever I am.