TL; DR – get rid of the badge or change it. Here’s some reasons why.
NTL; IWR – My son Liam started playing Ingress this year. At his personal pace. He’s still doing it at his pace! He’s level 5 and quite happy with what he got when he advanced in November. (I envy his serene and measured speed at the game honestly.) So this summer, when he started, I was curious as the game started to unfold for him. After all, this is Ingress, the world inside the scanner where only you, Agent, can see the hidden SF reality where you constantly capture the flag with no end in sight.
After he started, Liam wanted rides to the village to walk around and capture some portals. I gladly took him! Any occasion to spend time together. He had to go back to collect XM and recharge, so we went the following weeks. Then he built a field. And another. He was happy to have Dad with him and I was glad of the company. So I started reading up more on the game. The more I read the more interested I got. Some instinct made me realize that Liam needed Agent Dad on his side. I signed up. I started to play. Secretly. As I already mentioned in this blog.
Once leveling began, I studied the game harder so that I could help him (and myself). Then I started finding posts all over the Internet about the Guardian Badge. There was one awesome story about agents in England who staked out a guardian portal on Day 149 and held it so someone got the badge. That was the best tale, and what I think that was meant for. (Not what happens now though.)
And it’s so easy to remove a Guardian. Hunting down people’s Guardians with COMM scraper programs? That’s a dick move. People do it anyway. Why deny an achievement simply because you can? (Admittedly a few people scour the Intel map and are good at identifying what might be a Guardian Portal. That’s legit, but rare. Is that the best use of time?) And yet folks do hunt Guardians. So be it. Not my thing but one has to prepare.
So. When I got to that realization that a Guardian right out where everyone could get to it wasn’t likely to make it to Onyx, at first I didn’t tell Liam. I just asked where we could go to put other Guardians in case. He wasn’t interested. He enjoys the game and plays his way. Time to buy into that then. I did. But I kept thinking as I wound up getting sucked further into Ingress.
The boy won’t get a Guardian safely away from home? Okay. What if anyone figures out he’s associated with me. They’ll try to target him too? Okay, time to defend him. What’s the best way? Draw attention away from the village. Away from his portals.
Don’t be active at the same time so people don’t put two and two together easily.
Be Agent Dad.
Keep the Other Team busy.
Kicking it into overdrive, I started playing harder. (I also found the motivation that I want my team to win a Cycle for once. More on that someday when it happens.) Fielding all over the place and hoping people didn’t come to town, which is tough because the state is so green, took effort. But I kept it up. A fielding operation went through the village once. Fortunately they missed his guardian. But it was close.
September. Unique Month arrived. We had a night where we had to go to the Library. (I could sense that the Other Team was coming to town from COMM.) No one was there. I parked the car. I made Liam wait by his Guardian. I took a post 80 meters away by the street sign, brandishing phone in hand, at the easier to find portal. Thinking I can hold it for him. (What is a 50 year old guy doing on a cold night thinking he’s a new age gunslinger with a phone anyway?) A truck pulled over across the street and blew out the portal with 8 XMPs faster than I could deploy resonators. Lesson learned. They moved on though.
Then a van roared past into the library driveway to where Liam stood, pale and worried, by the little girl bronze, recharging from the 8s.
And roared out. Portal still blue.
I salute those players. They chose not to attack a level 3 portal even though there were at least three of them with 8 XMPs in that vehicle. They still got their unique visit – just not one unique capture. One in a string of dozens they had gotten that day. They dropped a key to his guardian later over by another portal. A nice gesture. While they trashed the village. Fortunately, this is a game. There’s no screaming portals and nothing really burns.
We went home.
Once that surprise was done, having concluded my thinking, I finally explained that Platinum Guardian was the goal. After that we were playing for bonus rounds. He’d likely never get Onyx. We’d try for it anyway. Maybe we could put a few portals out of town, just on the chance that someone wouldn’t drive a few hours to take them out? Nope.
Fast Forward to November. Agent Dad stops the Other Team from scoring late on a Friday afternoon, I know I said something in COMM which must have annoyed the other player that I temporarily thwarted. What do you expect next? Said player piles in the car, comes to town with his son, and blows down everything. Everything. In a most respectful way, only leaving a single pin on most portals.
“Well that’s it Buddy. Good job on Platinum.”
He took it quite in stride. “As long as we get my portals back Dad.” So we did. Liam likes things to be the same. That’s something I like helping with. Getting them back to the way they should be. He’s patient too since it doesn’t always happen right away.
In this state, be grateful if you can get a Guardian to Platinum. Seriously. I’ve seen too many get stopped at Gold.
Now let’s find Friday, December 16, 2016. Liam’s Guardian stopped ticking a month before. My own Guardian option had stopped at Platinum the weekend before. I find it flattering that the Other Team decided to go hunting my Guardian portals. They’ll happily cheat to try to annoy me. And really. For a game? But I digress. Liam is content with everything being the way it should be at his portals in town. He’s got to be talked into it. I get him to go out and play again for bit. It is sobering that it was the anniversary of Newtown, but I don’t remind him of that. Best to focus on the positive.
“We just need to do a couple quick things then get home to walk the dog before we go to New York to get your sister.”
We head to a portal that needs a retake, pin and mod. Done. It’s become something of a routine. I like it when Liam is willing to come along. Playing alone all the time you think how grand it must be for those who get to enjoy the game with someone else. I like our time playing together a lot. (Without that I’d have been done with this game months ago.)
“Buddy could you put your 5 pins on that portal please? It will make it stronger.” [It won’t raise the portal level, but it will improve the overall energy.] I’m tickled pink to have Agent Son on my team! Plus, hey, working on that Builder badge. He’s got L5 pins he can deploy. Someday, 6 pins!
“Hey look at that Dad. Onyx Guardian. My first Onyx badge.”
You could have dropped me to the ground at that moment. The boy did have a backup guardian that had gotten missed. Where? I’m not revealing. (See how I left out some details good readers? Like any good mystery writer.) I had thought we had to go interact with the portal to start the clock again, which I wasn’t going to have him do until Christmas. Nope. There it was. Won the bonus round.
And yet, what if someone had come down and taken out his guardian portal before Christmas? Or in this case before it ticked over. All that work would have been for nothing. The sheer effort involved in getting it might be ridiculous, and for what reward? There are other badges you can use to level to 16.
Submitted for your approval: Guardian is a stupid badge. Even if I can make a good story out of going for it.
Postlude: Fixing The Badge?
How would I fix it? Assuming Niantic kept it and didn’t just delete it outright. Make it a badge for holding a portal for a length of time when someone attacks while you’re defending – in person not remotely. (Have you ever been in an intense portal contest? Your heart rate will go up.) Turn it from something that can be denied to something earned for tenacity or good play. Maybe there are other ways to fix it as well. Stop calling people the portal “Owners” and call them “Guardians”?
(1) – As the new player – an Enlightened chap – that I met for coffee recently put it, “It’s the only badge that’s not in your control.” That’s a good point. No a great point. Here’s a cool idea – the badge – that does not match an optimal play experience. People try to target players for a variety of reasons by taking out Guardians. And riddle me this. Why not play the game for fun, instead of trying to try to deny someone else’s fun? (2)
(2) – I understand that in the earlier days of the game before I started playing, there were far fewer badges. Stopping someone from getting a Guardian to Onyx meant they might not level. So a strategic move. Yet consider this? A player who loses out on a certain amount of increased XM storage and recharge capacity still has access to L8 gear. They may be disadvantaged, yet they are still in the Heavy Hitter Club. (3) So what did you really accomplish there by continually taken out their guardians? You might have created a source of anger, taken away from their fun, and encouraged tit for tat revenge-style moves? Is that what you want to invest in a game? Just sayin.
(3) – For those folks who were prevented from joining their peers at L12 and up before Niantic added badges, my condolences. I didn’t experience this situation and can’t begin to relate. I suspect it was hard for many of you to spend all that time and effort when someone else could merely take it away with a script violating TOU and some bursters. Again, Guardian is a stupid badge.