The Demographics of Ingress

ingress-mindsThis is based on a non-scientific sample of 1,572 players of Ingress, Google’s augmented reality game.  The survey was posted to Reddit, Google Plus, Twitter, and IRC.  From there it passed through informal networks, so hopefully respondents were dispersed enough to make the results meaningful.  

The game is dominated by liberal Anglophone men.  The average Ingress player is 30.5 years old, male (91%), non-religious (64%), and speaks English as their first language (60%).  A majority are in the United States and Canada (44%+7%) but there are also sizable contingents in Germany (6%), the UK (5%), and France (5%).

Politically there was a definite leaning towards the left, although some fringe identities fared well, including libertarian (13%), green (8%), and anarchist (7%).  Long live the eco-techno-utopia!

Players break the law, and the rules

Almost one in three players have skirted around the law: 16% said they had “knowingly broken legal or local regulations in order to play Ingress” and a further 15% ominously said “maybe”.  Meanwhile 5% of players said they cheated within the game (using GPS spoofing, multiple accounts etc).  For those playing the game, that rate of cheating seems very high, but I think it’s more interesting to see that the game rules elicit far more respect than the law.

Ingress is good for you…

As expected, 88% had seen places they otherwise wouldn’t have seen.  This is unsurprising because at the core of the game is an attempt to reimagine space and place.  More unusual is the level of interaction in the game: 74% of people had met fellow players.  The game seems to be highly social, 29% said they had “made new friends.”

The game seems to be good for exercise too, 93% of players have done more walking, 24% have gone cycling, and 10% have gone hillwalking/trekking to play the game.

…but not the environment

A whopping 74% of players have driven in their car to play Ingress.  So while one quarter have gone cycling, three quarters have gone driving.  Obviously these groups overlap, but the neatness of the number belies the fact that although the game gets everybody out and about, some get more out and some get more about.

I also worry about the 2% of players who have conducted air travel for trips “dedicated to Ingress”!

Ingress is expensive

When asked to estimate the total amount of money spent playing the game, the average came to $79.84.  This is not surprising considering that on top of all the costs of driving and public transport spent on the game, 16% have bought a new device or hardware to play the game, and 8% have upgraded their phone/data subscription.

The breakdown is like that observed on almost any gaming platform.  A majority spend nothing or very little on the game, and a core of dedicated players spend exponentially more.  In this case, 26.3% have spent $100 or more, and 3.3% have spent $1,000 or more.

cost chart of playing ingress

(Yes this graph should probably be a histogram, or at the very least the x-axis should be notched into percentiles.  The amount spent refers to individuals, and is not cumulative.)

Half of players choose a team ideology, half choose with more practical concerns

The two teams are very closely balanced: 786 Enlightened responses, 777 from the Resistance.  Half of players chose a team based on the in-game storyline, and the other half deferred to other more practical determining factors.  There seems to be a Nash equilibrium of sorts here, which keeps the two teams on an equal footing (in numerical terms anyway).  The 23% of people who purposely chose to join the losing team (locally or globally) have a highly balancing effect.  The 15% who chose at random would also contribute to equilibrium.  Only the 14% who joined the same side as friends have a destabilizing effect.

The two teams are almost indistinguishable

I tried to find characteristic differences between the two teams, I really tried, but there’s a pretty stunning parity.  Resistors are a notch older than Enlightened (31.1 vs 30.0 years), but just as male, just as North American, just as non-religious, just as likely to drive and walk and buy a new phone and cheat and break the law.  Scoundrels.

The only exception is that Resistance does have a more right-of-centre following (ie US Republican) and Enlightenment more left-of-centre (or US Democrat).  But both sides are dominated by liberals.  If we crudely divided up the political allegiances into left and right, Resistance is 73% left, 27% right.  Enlightenment is 78% left, 22% right.

Ingress (ie Google) has brought users back to Google+

Even if the game died tomorrow in a blaze of network failure or patent litigation, Google would still be happy with the traffic it has driven to its social network.  Google+ has always suffered because even users who want to use it to share status updates have too many of their friends on Facebook or Twitter.  But when talking about Ingress, a perfect storm of profiling drives people back to Google’s social network.  Any status update or chit chat is targeted at fellow players, an elite core of early adopting, Android-powered geeks armed with high-end devices and immersed in the Google ecosystem.

Now take these numbers with a grain of salt, because this question more than any other was influenced by where the survey circulated.  But according to the responses…91% of Ingress players have talked with other players on Google+, 39% have done so on Reddit, 15% on Facebook, 12% on IRC, and 7% on Twitter.

Finally…

For me the most enjoyable part of reading the results is looking at the self-composed responses at the end of the survey describing people’s favourite aspect of the game.  Here are some to give a flavour of the responses.

It gets gamers out an moving….. :-P

I now have memorized the locations of every post office, library, fire station and piece of art within a 50 km radius of my house.

Rather then being a weekend warrior, I’m now a daily commute warrior.

The competitive capture-the-flag real world aspect, combined with the digital flavor of Gibson-esque intrigue.

I walk a lot more than previously.

Social-technical system interactions.

Walking around looking weird with my device, with a cool reason to do so.

The openness. You can’t really hide behind an avatar or nickname because you’ll eventually meet other players irl.

It has a very cyberpunk feel to it.  Walking/biking around a large metropolis with a  tablet in tote, hacking portals…I’m living my favorite 90’s sci-fi books.

I don’t like wordles, but that didn’t stop me making one out of the full list of favourite aspects of the game…

Ingress wordle

To play with the dataset yourself you can view it here or download it here.  You also can see the original survey here (I’ve left it open).

The Results in Graphs

Which side are you on?
Enlightenment 787 50%
Resistance 778 49%
Enlightenment (formerly Resistance) 5 0%
Resistance (formerly Enlightenment) 3 0%
What level are you?
1 285 18%
2 215 14%
3 212 13%
4 234 15%
5 227 14%
6 183 12%
7 124 8%
8 75 5%
How did you get your activation code?
Email from Ingress.com 1090 69%
Email from friend/acquaintance 179 11%
Reward for artwork/creativity 107 7%
Reward for intel or portal submission 4 0%
Reward for solving puzzle or riddle 46 3%
Won a chance-based competition 28 2%
Access via employment or affiliation with Google 29 2%
Found one online 49 3%
Stole it (or other nefarious means) 1 0%
Other 41 3%
Gender
Female 107 7%
Male 1440 91%
Other / Prefer not to answer 10 1%
What is your mother tongue?
English 944 60%
Mandarin 3 0%
Spanish 32 2%
Hindi 1 0%
Arabic 5 0%
Portuguese 14 1%
Bengali 0 0%
Russian 39 2%
Japanese 0 0%
Punjabi 2 0%
French 106 7%
German 128 8%
Italian 23 1%
Korean 0 0%
OTHER 276 18%

Hardware

Page 2/3
What make is the main mobile device you are using to play?
Acer 3 0%
Asus (incl. Nexus 7) 62 4%
HTC 221 14%
Huawei 5 0%
LG (incl. Nexus 4) 148 9%
Motorola 109 7%
Nokia 0 0%
Samsung 945 60%
Sony 48 3%
Other 33 2%
Have you made use of any peripherals?
Spare battery 539 46%
Car charger 793 67%
Night goggles 5 0%
Tethered tablet/laptop 366 31%
Other 142 12%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

Dedication

Estimate the radius of your Ingress activity.
0-10 km 329 21%
11-100 km 888 56%
101-1,000 km 267 17%
1,001-10,000 km 68 4%
10,000 km + 15 1%
Which modes of transport have you used on trips dedicated to Ingress.
Walking 1468 94%
Hillwalking/Trekking 149 9%
Cycling 369 24%
Driving 1163 74%
Bus/Coach 421 27%
Tram/Light Rail 300 19%
Railroad 213 14%
Boat 25 2%
Air travel 37 2%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.
Which platforms have you used to discuss Ingress with other players?
Google+ 1400 92%
Reddit 591 39%
IRC 178 12%
Facebook 231 15%
Twitter 106 7%
Other 153 10%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

Loyalty & Ethics

When you first signed up, what was the primary influence in choosing whether to join the Resistance or the Enlightenment?
Joined local dominant force 11 1%
Joined local weaker force 275 17%
Preferred the rhetoric/image/ideology of the force 736 47%
Wanted to be on same side as friends 217 14%
Liked the colour 58 4%
Joined globally dominant force 9 1%
Joined globally weaker force 94 6%
Random 121 8%
Other 53 3%
Have you since changed sides?
No 1480 94%
No but I am considering it 63 4%
No but I am planning to do so 8 1%
Yes 9 1%
Have you cheated?
No 1492 95%
Yes — GPS spoofing 44 3%
Yes — Multiple accounts 16 1%
Yes — Other 11 1%
Prefer not to answer 10 1%
Have you knowingly broken legal or local regulations in order to play Ingress?
No 1077 68%
Maybe 237 15%
Yes 253 16%
Prefer not to answer 6 0%

Politics & Religion

Page 3/3
Which of these closest matches your political views?
Anarchist 111 7%
Communist 21 1%
Socialist/Social Democrat/Left-of-Centre 311 20%
Liberal/Progressive Democrat/Centrist 618 39%
Green/Environmentalist/Ecologist 120 8%
Conservative/Traditionalist/Right-of-Centre 135 9%
Nationalist/Nativist 22 1%
Libertarian 205 13%
Monarchist 15 1%
Theocratic 13 1%
Which of these most closely describe your religious beliefs?
Agnostic 348 22%
Atheist 655 42%
Buddhist 30 2%
Christian 332 21%
Confucian 3 0%
Hindu 10 1%
Jewish 14 1%
Muslim 22 1%
Pagan 10 1%
Shinto 1 0%
Sikh 2 0%
Spiritualist 31 2%
Taoist 12 1%
Other 104 7%

And finally…

Which of the following things have happened because of Ingress?
Seen places I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. 1279 88%
Met new people (other players). 1068 73%
Met new people (non-players). 157 11%
Made new friends. 422 29%
Bought a new device/hardware. 235 16%
Upgraded my phone/data subscription. 120 8%
Other 92 6%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

54 responses to “The Demographics of Ingress

  1. Are your numbers backwards on the gender of players? Your graph shows Male dominance (which is what I expected) whereas the numbers match the Female dominance. A bit confusing.

    • The graphs are a readout pasted directly from Google. I think it may be displaying differently on your screen, seems ok to me. Female is listed first but the number (107) is correct, followed by male (1440).

    • Interesting search but here in France my feelings are resistance are much left “democrats”political influance, more warmhearted and more humanity otherwise enlighted i have met un game in France are like right political influence “republicans”, also sadly selfish and not warm people. That means resistance and enlighted are different kind of people it depends the country… Sorry for my english.

      • Nice try. Republicans prefer the old way, like the Resistance who are resisting change. Democrats are looking for change, for a new way, like the Enlightened, hoping for Shaper evolution.

  2. Awesome. The demographics pretty much match my experiences. The only thing that bothers me is the 91% male part.

    • Yup, it’s a bit disappointing but I wonder how that varies from other games. As far as I’m aware, almost all video-type games are overwhelmingly male dominated.

      FWIW, I play games very rarely but there’s something about Ingress that attracted me to it. I suspect there’s other women out there who might be appealed by the outdoor / explore concept which is what got me hooked.

      • I would have to disagree. Some game types seem pretty equal to me (i.e. Farmville, Say the Same Thing, etc.) In making this reply I did a little research and found an article which claims that men experience stronger feelings of reward in games that involve gaining territory and aggression. ( http://med.stanford.edu/news_releases/2008/february/videobrain.html ) I believe Ingress is highly territory-based, thus causing men to be more likely to join and more likely to continue playing. And most games that I continue to play (beyond a week or two) are territorial.

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    • Yup! It’s good to have (subtly) impossible answers in a survey, they’re one indicator of reliability.

  5. I have invited several people in the Netherlands to add to the survey as well. Can you report again in some time? Say a month?

    • You can check the results as they come in yourself here, the spreadsheet is live and open. There have been about 100 responses added since I did this report, but I think future results will be influenced by the results so far, making them even more unscientific!

      • The sample size will be (perhaps MUCH) larger, so the outliers will tend to be canceled out by people who give honest feedback, making it *more* scientific…
        I’ve posted the link to the survey in several G+ communities that I belong to, and urged people to add their voices.

        • It’ll be depend on how long the trickle of responders lasts for. There are now 1,758 responses and the data is open to everyone, so feel free to do a follow up.

        • The statistics will be more robust with more people AS LONG AS they haven’t read the results first. SD is alluding to a potential for people to know the results of the survey to be more or less likely to respond based on how much they like the current results. For example, seeing that there are few women responders, women who read the survey results may be more likely to take the survey and share it with their female friends than women who had not read the results. The same could be true of any survey question. Thus, we may expect responses from minority groups (minority in terms of survey questions, not in terms of ethnicity, religion, etc.) to increase, skewing the data.

  6. I chose the side I did because I *did not* agree with their rhetoric/image/ideology. I specifically wanted to pick the side I perceived as the “bad guys”. For some reason I thought this would be a common thing to do, was surprised it wasn’t on the list heh.

    • Interesting, I just had a look at some of the answers people typed in as “other” for that question and you’re not alone, but it is a bit of an outlier approach. More common are people who disliked the rhetoric of the opposite team. Also lots of people say there weren’t offered a choice at all, possibly because of a bug, or because the sign up screen at the beginning doesn’t make it clear you can reject the initial suggestion. So maybe Google is actually relying on this kind of nudge technique to keep the teams balanced.

      • I read an interview with the head of Ingress, and IIRC, he said they do nudge new users to one side or the other based on the regional balance.

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  8. You forgot to ask how many of them are stoners. I’m sure you’ll find that most of them spend their days smoking weed.

    • Good point, drink/drug/cigarette use might have been interesting. I’ll add it to the pretty long list of things that should have been in the survey!

  9. I really enjoyed reading this, too bad I haven’t participated. Please do a survey again after some time, it might be interesting to see if certain things change over time (or not).
    Thanks!

  10. Web page comment: Could you ensure some space between the numbers and the percentages? They run together.

    • Thanks for the heads up. I gather the formatting is a bit squashed in some browsers, will cross-check for future posts.

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  12. Hey chalk up 1 Korean -Mother tongue. Level 8 in Toronto, Canada. Cheers.

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  14. Reblogged this on Kelly Abbott and commented:
    Social, location-based, mmorg? Count me in! Especially if my cohort are left-wingers and atheists.

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  17. what we conclude from here from this game is people are more human online or on the internet than the most of the we see on other meduim..which represent hedonist views ..
    and the most astonishing thing for me was The 23% of people who purposely chose to join the losing team ….Wow….this represents the same way why most of the open source projects survive ..and people donate .
    dont want to commit on religion..but eventually it means people dont want to get into all that religous fundamentalism

  18. Have you found a difference between rural/city players? Here in germany it seems that people in big cities (students ?) tend to play resistence (they see a policeman “oppressing” them every day). In rural areas (want new technology like working internet, official “forces” take one hour to arrive when you call them) enlighted is preferred.

  19. It would be interesting to see this same survey done now, a half year later. When this survey was originally done it was at the infancy of Ingress.

  20. Is anyone else still waiting for the paascode they promised us in order to collaborate with the survey?

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