Blistered feet, sore muscles, off the chart cardio readings: geeks around the globe are letting out a collective gasp as they realize – often publicly on Twitter – that their favourite video game is causing them to get exercise.
But encouraging users to get active is inherently part of the game’s design.
Pokémon Go is just the latest example of gamification – the process of applying game design and gaming principles to non-game contexts. This could include point scoring, competition with others or storylines.
Gamification is often used to as a motivation tool to meet personal challenges like weight-loss or learning foreign languages.
In fact, with 120 million users and the title of 2013 iPhone app of the year, Duolingo, an online app allowing users to learn 13 different languages, is one of the most successful examples of gamification.
Languages are broken down into “bite-sized” skills that feel like games; users earn points when completing lessons or leveling up; and a streak counter keeps track of your daily learning goals. All these incentives make learning to read, write, listen and speak a foreign language more fun.
Pokémon Go uses similar concepts but applies them to tourism, social interactions and fitness.
Pokéstops are placed at popular landmarks. Pokémon are attracted to hot spots – high traffic areas. Eggs are only hatchable after walking a few kilometres.
Simply put: Pokémon Go virtually rewards those who explore, interact and move IRL.
Interested in the idea of gamified fitness, but not into Pokémon? Here are a few gamified fitness apps that will motivate you to keep moving.
Zombies, Run! by Six to Start is an immersive running adventure played by more than two million users worldwide – making it the bestselling smartphone fitness game.
You’re Runner 5, one of the last surviving humans in a zombie wasteland. To protect and strengthen your base you’ll have to complete a series of missions (workouts), collecting supplies, gathering intel and avoiding hordes of the undead.
Users have the option to activate the zombie chase sequences. As zombies approach you’re forced to literally run for your life. Users set the frequency and the difficulty of the interval training.
If you’re new to running, an introductory app is also available.
Zombies, Run! 5K Training is a professionally designed eight-week training program that improves your fitness and gives clear and detailed instructions on when to walk, jog, run and stretch.
Both versions are available on the App Store and on the Goggle Play Store.
If zombies aren’t your thing try BattleSuit Runner. Instead of defeating the undead, this time you’re up against an alien invasion.
The story-based fitness app incorporates a choose-your-own-adventure component. Mission outcomes are determined by your speed, so you’ll be driven to slow down, speed up and sometimes sprint depending on what you hope to accomplish.
There is also a battle element to the game.
Success depends on how much you’ve upgraded your suit – encouraging users to collect resources during their runs.
BattleSuit Runner is available on the App Store and on the Google Play Store.
7 Minute Superhero workout
Another Six to Start app, 7 Minute Superhero transforms your workout into a fight to save the world.
As the pilot of the prototype AEGIS One battlesuit, you are tasked with defending Earth against alien invaders.
Fight the alien scum through motion-controlled battles. The app uses your device’s front-facing camera to track your reps and activate weapons, shields and other abilities.
These story-driven full-body workouts are based on bodyweight exercises, so they can easily be completed at home.
7 Minute Superhero Workout is available on the App Store and on the Google Play Store.
Run an Empire
Run an Empire is a forthcoming alternate reality strategy game that incorporates a fitness element.
The app encourages you to conquer and defend territory, like in the classic board game Risk, by running or walking around your neighbourhood.
It’s a multiplayer game, meaning other players in your area might claim the same territory for their own. To fortify your borders you must encircle your territory regularly – encouraging frequent physical activity.
The app uses your phone’s accelerometer to avoid cheating through the use of cars or bicycles.
Run an Empire is still in the funding stage but is already capturing the attention of tech bloggers.