torquill: Doctor Wilson, thoughtful (wilson)
[personal profile] torquill
How one plays Ingress is a reflection of one's personality.

There is no one way to play the game; there are so many facets that one can pick and choose the aspects which are personally pleasing, and leave the rest. One can destroy, or build, or explore, or farm... I'm no exception: how I play the game reflects the state of my life at any given time.

A month or so ago, in reaction to a few different factors, I went grey faction. It's not an actual team, as such -- there are still only two factions, blue and green. But there are three different states for the portals which act as counters in this game of capture-the-flag: blue, green, and unclaimed (grey). Grey faction is the extreme end of the "destroy" axis, in which one leaves everything unclaimed and walks away.

It's an alien concept for most players, who neutralize portals only so that they can claim them instead. If one is on the blue team, the goal is to make as many things blue as you can. There is a strategy argument to be made for fortifying what one takes, to make it as difficult for the other team to reclaim as possible. Scoring, on a regional level, is done by measuring territory controlled by each faction, and that requires claiming portals and linking them together. Grey faction flies in the face of all that. And if everybody went grey faction, there would be no game.

So why do it?

I could make counter-arguments: that by eliminating building supplies from one's limited inventory, there is much more room for weapons; that it takes less time to smash than it does to smash, build, and link, and that time is often the limiting resource for solo agents; that in a green-dominant territory like this one, a solitary blue portal built by a single player is almost trivial to take down, and thus doesn't cost much in the way of gear or time; that it helps new players by giving them neutral portals to claim and build, when they're too low-level to smash or upgrade things; that it becomes a political statement, a way of saying "I don't care who owns it, I just don't want it to be green". All of these things are just as true as the strategic arguments against.

But all those points are simply a way of illustrating that there is no one argument that will decisively turn someone away from being grey faction. For each point there is a counterpoint. It's a complex picture, even down to how grey faction players interact with the rest of the team. I'll happily bump existing portals and build strategic anchors for teammates (other greys vary).

Ultimately, the reason someone goes grey faction is the same reason we each develop our own play style: because it makes us happy.

I got frustrated by being outnumbered, by having my work erased within a few hours like it had never been, by never having anybody to back me up, by the sheer futility of trying to build in a green stronghold. In order to build one has to smash the other team's work first, and when it takes hours to clear enough space to make even a small area blue, I started to wonder why I was bothering to build afterward. So I started collecting more weapons, and trimming my building supplies more and more. A couple of things happened in real life that gave me a hard time emotionally, and I felt decidedly nihilistic for about a week. That's when I discovered how satisfying it was to walk into an area, level it, and leave only smoking grey craters behind.

The other grey faction agent I know has been known to discard almost all building supplies, and replace them with three times the weapons that an average agent carries. I still stock some building supplies (I never know when I might be called on to assist, or when I might have an urge to do a little building). The truth is that when I'm feeling good and happy, I plan little blue designs, then go out and build them on the edges. When I'm not doing well, I leave things grey. One night last week I was in a great deal of emotional pain, and I ended up razing the entire north side of town by myself (it took me until almost 5am). A few jaws dropped over that one, and our usual eraser (a green player) was rather at a loss to repair the damage.

I've told a couple of agents that if you can't understand grey faction, then you aren't grey faction. I've never wanted to control territory the way the green team does here, or even the way my teammates do in the next town over; I've always wanted a mixed playing field, with opportunities for everybody. It doesn't surprise me to end up going completely grey after nine months, given the situation here... If the balance shifts, I may start building again. But I'll always have grey sympathies. There's a certain refreshing quality to clearing the board, destroying everything and leaving only ashes behind.
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Torquill

September 2017

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