This mind-bending bit of news has quite a few surprises and twists both in its inception, its source, and its content. The first surprise is that Google's own Niantic Labs is actually developing an MMO (massively mutlplayer online) video game.

The second surprise is that although this game works like an MMO with millions of users across the globe playing together in real time, it doesn't use a traditional interface. This is a smartphone based augmented reality game.

The third surprise is the content of the game will be a paranoid laced, global conspiracy theme that uses real world landmarks as points of reference to help move the story along. (It looks like they found some unique uses for Google Maps.) Here's a quote with the story description to help nail down the concept,

Our future is at stake. And you must choose a side.

A mysterious energy has been unearthed by a team of scientists in Europe. The origin and purpose of this force is unknown, but some researchers believe it is influencing the way we think. We must control it or it will control us.

“The Enlightened” seek to embrace the power that this energy may bestow upon us.

“The Resistance” struggle to defend, and protect what’s left of our humanity.

Install Ingress and transform your world.

The World is the Game
Move through the real world using your Android device and the Ingress app to discover and tap sources of this mysterious energy. Acquire objects to aid in your quest, deploy tech to capture territory, and ally with other players to advance the cause of the Enlightened or the Resistance.

The struggle is being played out globally. Track the progress of players around the world, plan your next steps, and communicate with others using an Intelligence map.

What is the Niantic Project?
Is this just a game? An Investigation Board (Niantic Project) filled with cryptic clues and secret codes awaits. The story evolves everyday. Powerful secrets and game tech are there to be unlocked.

Form Alliances
The struggle to save the planet spans the entire world. Groups of people acting together can be more effective than individuals acting alone. Cooperation across neighborhoods, cities, and countries will be needed to achieve the ultimate victory.

NOTE: This app is optimized for smartphones, not tablets.

It seems to me that this game is like FourSquare, only it wraps it in an interesting plot and more interactivity. We knew that those Google engineers were crafty and creative, but who knew they could come up with a mind-bending concept like this, or that they were even working on a game? The only thing that might be a concern about this idea is that some folks who already have a problem distinguishing reality from fantasy might have a problem extricating themselves from this "game." Get out your tin-foil hats everyone, and que up the X-Files theme music!

Here's a link to the Google Play Store where you can request an invite to the currently closed beta test of the game: Google Play Store - Ingress