How an Augmented Reality Game Escalated into Real-World Spy Warfare

At 4:30 PM on February 17th, 2017, Meng was getting ready to take the last ferry to the island at the center of Qinhu National Wetland Park in Jiangsu Province, China. In one hand was a bag of camping equipment and a telescope. In the other, a phone, which she checked obsessively. Meng had spent the day traveling from her home in Beijing to Shanghai and then Nanjing, assembling a trusted squad of eight people that she rarely met in-person. They told park officials that they were there to do some overnight birdwatching with their telescopes, but that was a lie. The telescopes were just for show. Meng and the others were there to execute the final step in an international conspiracy to open a secret line of communication to another Resistance position in Alaska.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Damn, this article is so good! I never knew people got THIS into Ingress, and the way the article’s written makes the whole thing so thrilling.


This is a really incredible read! This for me has always been the appeal of ARGs. I love the notion of vast community conspiracy and espionage. I think that’s why Subterfuge appeals to me.

But… there are a lot of concerns about how much you’re involving yourself with the systems in real life. My concern about games lately, especially mobile games, is how they are often structured to engage players in such away that keeps them “hooked”, and that’s really upsetting. Even Subterfuge is known for putting serious stress on people and their relationships. The idea of people bringing in-game alliances to real life is… unsettling to me. That story about the subway platform fucks me up, and it just gets wilder as this article goes on.

This is why I think we need to talk about the Magic Circle, no matter how much you think its silly. Sorry y’all. This shit gets very real very quickly.

Loved, loved, LOVED this article. Really wish I had something else to say. THESE KINDS OF ARTICLES are why I love Waypoint. Elizabeth Ballou hit it out of the fucking park.

Though, the pedantic part of me needs to say: if you play Ingress or other geocaching style things, please be safe. Stories about death and injury are really heartbreaking and you should never put yourself at risk because of a game.


I’d never heard of the Magic Circle before but I’m glad I looked it up. If I’m understanding the definition correctly, I’ve long found anything that messes with the Magic Circle to be fascinating. I almost never want to participate with those things, but I love to read about them.

I think my first real experience with the Magic Circle was playing Humans vs Zombies on my college campus. The stress of just a couple of days trying to survive as a human when the game’s rules said I was a target from 8 am - 8 pm anywhere on campus was exhilarating but ultimately way too much for me.

But I love hearing about people playing HvZ. I love hearing stories form LARPers. I read every article about EVE Online that I can find. I could never dedicate that much of my time and energy to a game, but I’m in awe of those who do.

I think wrestling kayfabe is very similar to the Magic Circle. As a fan, I play by the rules of the “game” and pretend everything happening is real. Especially at my local indie shows, I boo the “bad guy” even if they are my favorite performer and I cheer wholeheartedly for the “good guy” even if I find them to be boring. And I get furious whenever someone thinks they’re being funny by pointing at the Magic Circle.

I wish I could find an EVE Online news site written for outsiders. I would love to keep up with what’s happening but having no desire to actually play leaves me totally lost when I try to read any of the news sites I’ve found.