So let me tell you about my first experience going to a meetup for the mobile game Ingress, which I have gotten into primarily because of Jax!
"First Saturday" events (called "FS") happen the first Saturday of every month, in which local Ingress players meet up to get to know each other, talk about their experiences with the game, and help out new players, aiding them with leveling up (which helps you unlock better items, vital in playing competitively). The event started with two hours of socializing, and then an hour and a half of running around playing, pairing new players with experienced ones, with special prizes for the players who gained the most experience in that time.
I've been playing Ingress for under a week, and since the local FS event was coming up, I figured I would look into attending! After a quick Google search I was able to find my local Ingress community on Google+ which had details about the event.
I followed the addressed and arrived at the meeting spot 5-10 minutes early. It was at a park by a bunch of stores and restaurants, but I realized I wasn't entirely sure where I was supposed to be, or how to find other players. I spent a good 15 minutes wandering around like a weirdo, keeping an eye out for a cluster of young adults who were glued to their phones. After mustering up my courage, the first couple I approached immediately asked if Ingress was some kind of secret society (and responding that "it's just a mobile game" didn't exactly feel like the truth, haha).
Right after I noticed an Asian dude staring at his phone wandering through the park, so I followed him for a moment and eventually asked the same question. Thankfully he was indeed, and he was a new player just like me. A minute later a white guy strode towards us asking if we were here for Ingress, and we were both relieved and got to talking. Another two white guys soon followed, and we stood around chatting. We soon moved to an outdoor bistro in the park, and it was here we spent the next hour and a half as more and more players joined us. Eventually, we were 13 people chatting about the game, playing the game on and off.
The demographic here was heavily skewed. Everyone was in their 20's or so, except for one man who looked to be about 50-60. About 2/3 of the group was white and 1/3 was Asian. About 2/3 were Francophone (natively French-speakers), but almost everyone seemed to be bilingual, which I am not. Of the 13 of us, I was the only woman.
The first question I got from anyone was which faction I was in. The two factions are Enlightened (green) and Resistance (blue), and I am the former. Slightly over half of the group was Resistance, and apparently our city is primarily Resistance, which is rather intimidating. One of the Resistance guys had a bunch of Resistance swag that he was selling, but unfortunately us Enlightened had no such luck.
The second question was what level I was at. I was level 3, and the highest-leveled players were level 16. Myself and the first guy seemed to be the only low-leveled players, and the only ones for whom it was their first time at a live event. Sylvain, the older gentleman at level 16, assured me that I would reach level 4 at the end of the event. He was decked out in Enlightened swag, though I forgot to ask where he got it.
The social aspect of the event felt somewhat strange. Perhaps it was because I didn't really know them, but I didn't talk to them much, and when I did we didn't discuss our personal lives a ton. I quickly made my love of Pokemon clear, and chatted about Act's upcoming wedding, which sparked some interesting conversation about travelling while playing Ingress. We mostly talked about Ingress and strategies for the game. One really helpful First Nations dude answered a lot of my questions and gave me a lot of advice. People were glued to their phones much of the time, playing the game as much as they could without really getting up and going anywhere.
It was eventually time to really get playing. The competitive aspect was a race to get the most AP, or experience, in the 1.5 hours. Since the game tracks the total amount of AP you have accumulated, each player registers how much AP they have before the competition starts with a representative from the opposing team. Once the time is up, you register your new amount of AP with the opposing team member. Subtract the two numbers, and you can see who gained the most AP in the short time span.
I went off with my fellow Enlightened in the opposite direction of the Resistance players, and they explained that, since I was the newbie, they would do everything they could to help me get tons of AP and level up. You earn the most AP from claiming neutralized portals and connecting claimed portals to each other. Connecting three portals creates a field, which also gives a ton of AP. My fellow Enlightened made it their job to neutralize portals for me since I was too low-leveled to do so myself, and then allow me to connect portals. They also gave me tons of helpful items by dropping them onto the map so I could claim them, which took some coordination.
We mostly traversed up a single street, but there were tons of portals along the way for us to interact with. As a group of about six we slowly shuffled up the street, eyes on our phones, constantly refreshing the screen to see who was doing what and strategizing how to proceed, sometimes getting split up but never being too far away. It was honestly difficult to keep up with, even as we stopped every few minutes so I could connect all of the portals we had conquered. Everyone was extraordinarily patient, and while I did feel somewhat rushed, I was never made to feel as if I was holding the group back. The generosity they showed during the competition was really encouraging, and thanks to them I quickly reached level 4.
I was supposed to leave slightly early, but I wound up having a lot of fun, and it was hard to stop playing and leave, especially as I was continuously encouraged to create more fields. Unfortunately there were some complications with recording my AP, since I had to take a screenshot of my profile and we struggled with where to send it since I wasn't a part of the Google Hangout they used, so I didn't even leave early in the end.
In the end, it was a really cool experience. Everyone was very chill and invested in helping me gain experience - it seemed they wanted to help me get on their level so I could play like them, and they were all used to helping newbies out in a way that felt free of judgement. The demographics of the players was a little strange, but I never felt that I was being helped purely because of my gender of anything like that. Overall, it was a neat experience and a cool event, and I would definitely like to do it again next month!
Edit: I have also updated this post into an article and posted it to a local website! Yay!