If you're a pen pal of mine, you've heard this confession already. I am heavily involved in an ARG (that's an Alternate Reality Game) called Ingress. It works with your smart phone and Google maps. To play, you have to be physically present in specific geographic location. The elevator pitch is that it's "Like Four Square, but with space noises." I like to tell people that it's a combination of geocaching and capture the flag. In past couple years of playing Ingress, I have walked over 2,700 km, visited parts of my city I'd never seen*, and I've met my neighbors. That's the thing about having to be physically present; you end up interacting with people who live near you.
There is a storyline to Ingress all about space aliens and evolution and government conspiracies, but most everyone who plays will tell you that it's really just Blue Team (the Resistance) versus Green Team (the Enlightenment.) CNET has a good article that calls it "Earth's friendliest turf-war." You start playing by picking a side. Full disclosure, I'm on the Blue Team (and I think if this sounds cool to you, then you should be too!)
There are points on the map called portals. These portals are all public art, statues, locally-owned businesses, historic buildings, et cetera. The goal of each team is to control the portal by making it either blue or green. The portals can then be linked together to form fields. Fields make whole areas of the map blue or green. Those are the basics.
"Hey, Donovan," you might be asking, "what's this have to do with the Letter Writers Alliance?" I'm glad you asked. What I like most about Ingress is how it blends the digital world with reality. Sure, the glowing lights aren't in the real world, but that cool mural I never noticed before is definitely there. That's a lot like what we're trying to do with the Alliance. We want to use the Internet to interact more with our tangible space. We want to make connections with people, not just their screens. We use email to make more real mail. They use gamification to make people explore their environment.
I admit, the connect is a bit vague, but look, I made free stationery and notecards! You get a gift for listening to me talk about it. It is what I'm doing when I'm not doing all that other stuff that I do. *If you follow my Instagram feed, that's what all the #ingress is about. I take those photos when I'm out exploring for the game.
As an additional bribe incentive, I also have special artistamps for the Ingress available. There are two ways to get them:
1- (For new players) Send me an email with a request for an invitation to the game. I'll send you an invite. Sign up as a Resistance player and send me a screenshot of your Ingress Agent Profile along with your address and I will mail you stamps.
2- (For current players) Send me a screenshot of your Ingress Agent Profile along with your address and I will mail you stamps. If you're Enlightened, I will send you stamps, but they are pro-Resistance. (Feel free to faction switch and join the good guys!)
The world around you is not what it seems! Join me in the fight to save humanity from alien corruption, or, you know, walk around outside for a bit and maybe see something new in your neighborhood. Whichever seems more likely.