Date With DC: Virtual Reality Edition.

Yesterday, my dear Twitter friend StarlightGeek and I met up for the first time since she moved to DC. As a fellow former Bostonian, we had met once before, but it was so nice to be exploring our new city together. Though I’ve been here for about 9 months now, I still feel very, very new here. And lately, I’ll be honest- DC had lost some of its luster. I was frustrated with the lack of medical support, and that trickled down to other aspects of DC life. I am going to be here for at least another 18 months by lease alone, so I might as well fall in love with DC again. It was one of my treatment goals for my last two days of medical leave (more on that in another blog post later).

Our original plan involved seeing if we could get Washington Monument tickets and then hitting a museum, but they were sold out and the weather was perfect for walking, so we thought we’d do monuments. Stopping for our obligatory coffee, StarlightGeek asked, “hey, do you play Ingress?” I look over at her phone. “Oh, Kelsey plays that sometimes, but not really. Why, is it fun?” She explained that you join a faction (either blue or green) and try to gain control of “portals”, which are really important sites in real life (monuments, cool art, local institutions of culture, community meeting places, etc). The thing is that you have to be within 40 meters of this important site in order to interact with it (“hacking” it allows you to find supplies, deploying resonators helped defend the portal if it is in your color, and you can also “Fire” at an enemy portal to try to make it your faction’s). StarlightGeek is a proud member of the Green faction (“The Enlightenment”), so I joined hers, only to find out later that Kelsey is a member of the Blue faction (“The Resistance”). “A House Divided” was joked by all involved.

{Screenshot: a map of portals in an area. There is a long stretch of blue (read: enemy) portals  around the bottom and a few green (read: correct) portals in the top left corner}.

{Screenshot: a map of portals in an area near the Dept. of Agriculture. There is a long stretch of blue (read: enemy) portals around the bottom and a few green (read: correct) portals in the top left corner}.

We played Ingress as we walked down the mall, to the Jefferson Memorial, to the FDR memorial, and then in Adams Morgan later that evening. You know all of those little place-markers that are all over the place in a city like DC? They’re all portals in Ingress. DC has so many historical landmarks all around us that we sometimes tone them out. Ingress allowed us to embrace them all, like this beautiful Dogwood tree.

{photo: an historical marker}

{photo: an historical marker for a Flowering Dogwood }

{Photo: A Flowering Dogwood tree}

{Photo: A Flowering Dogwood tree}

{Photo: a selfie with StarlightGeek and our newfound Flowering Dogwood}

{Photo: a selfie with StarlightGeek and our newfound Flowering Dogwood}

This game facilitated a way for us to explore so many different landmarks, monuments, and cool art that we never knew existed, and as we found them and put resources into them, we now have an interest to go back and up our defenses (or attack further). The best part about this game is you can look at it, find the next portal you want to go to, and then turn it off and enjoy the walk and take out your phone again when you get to the portal you’re looking for. It allowed me to see a beauty in DC I hadn’t felt in a really long time.

For instance, we knew that there was a George Mason memorial, but we had never found this place before. But, we saw there were a lot of portals to tap into nearby, so we made our way towards it.

{Photo: a statue of George Mason with a book in his hand, looking off into the distance contemplatively, and me next to him, imitating his pose}

{Photo: a statue of George Mason with a book in his hand, looking off into the distance contemplatively, and me next to him, imitating his pose}

We then ran into a lot of “enemy territory” by the FDR Memorial (which just so happens to be my favorite part of the Tidal Basin walk):

{Screenshot: A map with a lot of blue  (enemy) portals in one area}

{Screenshot: A map with a lot of blue (enemy) portals in one area}

But, this gave us a chance to take a look at every aspect of that intricate memorial (and even added artwork by Baskin that was previously unaccounted for in the game!). Now that we are expecting foliage soon, and have portals we care about around the Tidal Basin, we hope to do another walk later in the fall.

We ended up going to AdMo after our Tidal Basin walk (we had taken a lot of steps, we needed some diner food!). We didn’t have time to get to every interesting portal we saw, so I took screenshots of their page so I can find them later. This mural is uncaptured still, so I might need to claim it soon.

{Screenshot: a portal page for a mural of President Obama walking dogs, near the main stretch of AdMo}

{Screenshot: a portal page for a mural of President Obama walking dogs, near the main stretch of AdMo}

When I got home, I explored the many (at the time…) uncaptured portals in my neighborhood and planned an evening competitive walk with Kelsey. We were pretty civil this time (I let him capture the embassies of countries he cared about, he let me capture the cool art), but I can imagine these evening walks getting competitive as we nurture our portals and attack each other. Seeing we also recently added Mario Kart to our home, it sounds like we are going to be playing lots of competitive games together.

Overall yesterday, between my long walk with StarlightGeek and my neighborhood walk with Kelsey, I took about 19,000 steps, nearly twice my daily wellness goal. Though I won’t have time to take long walks like that every day as I return to work, I can imagine spending some lunch breaks wandering my work neighborhood, capturing portals, and some “romantic” evening walks exploring the portals in every direction of our apartment.

I also noticed when I got home and did more research that there are portals in so many places- even the tiny New England town where I grew up. It kind of reminded me of geocaching in that way- more portals existed than you would ever know until you looked it up. It’s a great way to explore the landmarks in your neighborhood, strengthen your connection to the community, and get some exercise. I can tell you that I feel much more connected to the rich history of this city, and my legs hurt this morning in the good way. Yesterday was a great date with DC.

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