Why we need fitness gamification
Just consider the huge amount of effort, deprivation, and discipline involved in regular exercise, and workplace gamification might suddenly seem like child’s play :).
‘Working out’ is worse than work since you don’t depend on it. You can’t even fall back on constraint and necessity: on the job, even if you don’t feel engaged, you have to do what your boss says or you’ll get fired and lose your income.
With fitness and exercise, there is no external authority and obligation other than your own willpower (and mirror).
On the other hand, the internal motivation is supposedly not an issue when you’re at the stage of shopping around for fitness apps. You presumably want to get fit and know what you stand to gain. You’ve embraced the goal but it doesn’t make the process any easier and progress can be discouragingly slow. And this is where fitness apps are supposed to help.
As we can never stress enough in this blog, points and leaderboards are essential but not enough for successful gamification. The market offers a myriad of apps to monitor your stats when working out – heart rate, speed, distance, etc, etc.
But while good design can make these tools quite engaging to use, at best they remain useful, not fun. What the British Six to Start developers did was to use a story as the key to unlock the fun.
From Kickstarter to commercial success and one million players
Zombies, Run! is a 2012 video game co-developed and published by Six to Start and Naomi Alderman for iOS and Android platforms.
The storyline of the game is written primarily by Naomi Alderman and a team of writers, with guest contributions by notable science fiction authors such as Margaret Atwood and Andrea Phillips.
The game was funded by a Kickstarter campaign which raised more than five times what was expected, a total of $72,627 from 3,464 backers. Zombies, Run! became the highest-grossing Health & Fitness app on Apple’s App Store within two weeks of its initial release.
Zombies, Run! is an immersive audio adventure. The story unfolds as dispatchers speak to you through your headphones in-between your own music . You are one of the main characters and while you complete missions and collect supplies and artifacts, you gradually get to know other characters, learn the history of the world you’re in, and try to unravel the big mystery – what brought on the zombie apocalypse!
“Only a few have survived the zombie epidemic. You are a Runner en-route to one of humanity’s last remaining outposts. They need your help to gather supplies, rescue survivors, and defend their home.”
Here is the very first of 23 missions in Season 1:
“While en route to Abel Township from Mullins Military Base, your transport helicopter, “Jolly Alpha Five Niner”, is hit by a rocket attack and crashes. The crash site is full of zombies and Sam Yao, the radio operator from Abel, begs you to run for your life. You proceed to run away from the crash site and the zombies as well as your dying/dead pilot.”
If enabled, the game randomly switches to ‘zombie chase’ mode when you have to speed up and maintain the high pace for about a minute. If you don’t accelerate enough, the zombies start catching up and you soon hear them breathing down your neck.
After the run:
The game doesn’t end with the run – once at home you will use the items collected to build your base.
And of course, you can check your run logs for all the stats (total and average distance & time, average and fastest pace, even what music tracks you played).
Why it is a success story:
Now in its 4th season, with spin-offs such as books and real-world events in the works, the game boasts 200 missions, one million players, and a huge online community! What’s the secret behind its enormous success?
To put it in a nutshell, it works because it’s not like a game, it IS a game.
Moreover, a game that appeals to all aspects of our individual player personality:
- Killers, who live for competition, will obviously get their fill of thrill and will love the occasional ‘heart race runs’.
- Achievers will enjoy ticking off missions, improving their track records, collecting supplies and building up their base in-between running sessions.
- Explorers will look forward to discovering more of the zombie universe and to unravelling the big mystery in the zombie apocalypse story.
- And finally, running needn’t even be a lonely business anymore – socializers will be happy to connect to the other runners in the growing online community of Zombies, Run!
The story and role-play enhance runners’ experience – they await their next run as the next episode or chapter in an audio book.
And once immersed in the zombie universe, runners can look forward to the exhilarating rushes of dopamine every time they survive a ‘zombie chase’.
The app thus turns physical effort into play. It provides an illusory context and reason for physical exertion, as well as immediate gratification and bursts of pleasure to sustain them in the pursuit of the more abstract goal of ‘keeping fit and healthy’.
We all know that great feeling AFTER your workout, which is an awfully demanding means to a desired end. With Zombies, Run!, the process itself becomes enjoyable and fun – and that is the ultimate goal of any gamification project.
“Make your next run fun!”: